The pursuit of passion: why PR leaders should welcome side projects

There's no doubt that passionate people make good employees. Business leaders want teams with drive and ambition.

Passion projects are an indicator of wider talents, argues Kevin Gessay
Passion projects are an indicator of wider talents, argues Kevin Gessay

But people with these qualities sometimes come with a particular string attached - the passion project.

The pursuit of 'moonlighting' side hustles is not unheard of within PR and marketing, where there are lots of creative, focused individuals.

But over the last few weeks, there’s been debate in the industry about whether this is a good thing or not.

I’m firmly in the former camp - from a management perspective, I welcome the side hustler. Here’s why:

They are productive

Those who find the time to run their own business out of hours are the kind of people who will deliver in their working life, too. It shows dedication and creative thinking - great qualities for a team member. The ability to juggle and multi task is often undervalued and they will naturally excel here.

They understand risk

Until you’ve run a business, it’s hard to appreciate the highs and the lows associated with doing so. This is amplified when it’s your own capital on the line. People with their own enterprises understand what goes into making a business a success; the dedication that’s required and what the risks are if people don’t deliver. I’ve found that those who have experience of running a business in their personal lives have excellent empathy with this, and as a result will consistently perform beyond their scope of work.

Prevents an insular mindset

As storytellers by nature, in PR it’s easy to get caught up in our own hype. This comes from being dedicated and proud of the work we do, which is admirable, but it’s also important to be well rounded. There’s a hugely diverse world out there, beyond the creative industries. Exposure to new experiences can positively impact client work, too. Someone who sells products online will have a better understanding of the retail process; a person creating cosmetics at home will be able to bring this knowledge to the table when working with a beauty brand. It gives them authentic credibility.

Attracts the best talent

Does a passion project distract employees from delivering a good job for your company, and your clients? In my experience, no. The most passionate people are so good at managing their time, that you would never even know they are working on something else as well unless they told you. It never diminishes their commitment, time at the office or hours necessary to deliver on client work at hand. Managers shouldn’t be concerned or insulted if their employees want to broaden their horizons, they should be flattered that people with this kind of drive want to work for them, too. In today’s digital world, it’s far easier for people to follow an entrepreneurial path. Companies that embrace and embody this attitude will find themselves home for the best talent.

Kevin Gessay is managing director, UK, at PMK BNC

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