CAREERS: Pandora's Problem Page

Q: I'm the spokesperson for a medium-sized tech company. I keep

getting calls from journalists who tell me that they've heard rumors

we're heading for bankruptcy. Meanwhile, my managers tell me that we

have financial troubles but they want me to stonewall the press for a

week. I really don't want to lie to these journalists, as I'm sure I'll

be dealing with them again. What should I do?

Mr. P, Sacramento, CA

A: You shouldn't be put in the position where you have to lie, that's

for sure. But the problem is that your managers obviously need more time

to sort themselves out and prepare their case to the outside world.

Your role is to buy them this much-needed time without necessarily

misrepresenting the situation to the media. So propose to your managers

that they schedule a time to talk to journalists and fill them in on

what's going on. If they're reluctant to do this, you must point out

that the rumors are already 'out there' and must be addressed. Assuming

your boss is at least slightly media-savvy, he or she will understand

this. Also bear in mind that Regulation FD requirements mean that if you

are releasing price sensitive information to the media you mustn't

selectively release it (so don't try to buy favors by promising


This will give your managers a concrete deadline to focus on, and will

keep the media wolf from your door for the moment, giving you time to

help your managers craft their statement. But make sure that they stick

to the date you set - the last thing you want is for the media to feel

like they're being manipulated.

Q: I'm an assistant account executive and my work often consists of

updating media lists and other routine tasks. I see layoffs happening

all around me and since my work doesn't allow me to show what I can do,

I'm worried I'll be fired in the next round. I've asked for more

responsibility, but it never seems to happen. What should I do?

Ms. N, New Orleans

A: It may not feel like it, but you're actually in a pretty good


I'm assuming your salary is fairly meager, right? So your agency won't

gain that much by laying you off - it's the expensive people that will

be first in line for the pink slips.

However, you are right to think that now is the time to start proving

your worth. If there have been layoffs, then presumably your co-workers

are all working hard to paper over the cracks. So make yourself popular

by helping them out.

Do a bit of homework on the accounts that your team is working on, and

start coming up with some ideas. Think a little smarter about those

media lists you have been beavering away on.

There's probably been a lot of movements amongst the journalists too, so

make it your business to let your account director know straightaway if

you notice that one of their prime contacts has moved on.

Now is also the time to make sure that the clients know who you are, and

how helpful you can be. Take advantage of any opportunity to call him or


Keep your ears open, work out what the ADs' priorities are in any given

week and find ways that you can help lessen their load. Showing your

keen side and making yourself indispensable is the fastest way to

increase your layoff-proofing.

Got a problem that no one else can help with? Try Pandora. E-mail her at


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