I Am More Than My 'Brand': Confessions Of A Disgruntled PR Woman

by Jazmine Reed

They say, “Love don’t pay the bills.” Know what else doesn’t? Most writers’ wages.

Thus, I am left to moonlight and mooch… until I hate my marriage so much I spawn a sh*tty trilogy of erotic books and can survive on one paycheck #goals.

In between penning essays and listicles, I freelance as a digital marketing strategist in the PR/marketing industry.

Yes, I get paid to tweet and push products. ("She’s a pusher, Cady, a pusher!") But, I feel like I am the product … and I hate it.

Work Week Is Fashion Week.

I will admit, the employer I am currently working for is great, and most of the women and interns here realize this is a workplace, not a Bravo casting call.

In previous jobs, however, I felt like one of those celebrities who became more infamous for her persona than talent.

I wasn’t being asked about creative briefs or marketing tactics, but rather where my outfit came from and explaining why I still shop at Target. ('Cause it’s cute and cheap, biotch!)

I distinctly remember one particular summer, at a tech agency, where an executive was given a makeover by her subordinates.

She came to work on Monday morning taller, blonder and, admittedly, quite offended.

She confided to me that she felt her job would have been in jeopardy if she didn’t begin to look the part.

(Don’t we work our asses off to get out of high school and all its immaturity?)

This unspoken dress code has been enforced by several employers, in fact.

I personally experienced ritual once-over inspections from a supervisor every morning, and like a heavier (and more humble) Anne Hathaway, I wondered if my journalism degree was just ending up a floor mat for a shallow executive’s stilettos and lattes.

As a writer, I like to be comfortable. And, as a writer who has to be financially conscious, I like to be comfortable and stay within my budget.

I wish the PR industry did a better job at respecting that.

I Am Not A Brand.

Long before the days of social media and kittens inspiring kittens, it was a common to hear the phrase: Sell yourself.

You went into an interview, gave a firm handshake and highlighted your greatest qualities.

Well, now that we are in the days of social media, kittens inspiring kittens and hundreds of memes, it is common to hear, “What is your brand?”

Excuse me, please tell me when I was stamped with a bar code and approved by the FDA.

Brand? I was a cheerleader, scene kid and hipster, all within my four years of high school.

I regularly can’t decide which "Sex and the City" or "Girls" character I identify with, but you want me to precisely articulate my “brand” and allow that theme to decide my Instagram aesthetic, bio and voice on all social platforms?

At one point, I was running two Twitter accounts: one for my personal life and one for the personal life I wanted professionals to see.

It’s truly no wonder that our generation has seen a spike in personality disorders.

We are being prepared and paid to elect an alter ego and stay “on” for nearly 24 hours a day.

The constant monitoring of brand cohesiveness was so exhausting, I had to delete all of my social platforms (#firstworldproblems).

I couldn't remember what it was like to capture a moment and let it linger rather than capture a moment, put it through #VSCOcam, make sure the aesthetic goes with my “theme” and find a caption that sounds like my “brand voice.”

Can’t I just have an Instagram account because I want to post pictures of my dog and silly, everyday things?

In public relations, you’re not selling yourself, you’re selling your soul at times.

Keep Your Frenemies Closer.

Firstly, I hate this term and what it represents.

It promotes the idea that we keep people around just to push them around.

This is something that I believe has been instrumentally detrimental to feminism and the women’s movement.

I personally do not condone the idea of having “air-kiss” friends.

But I admit, that’s only something I’ve only come to say since graduating college at a top journalism school, where playing beer pong with someone was a means to connect and get an internship with a major broadcasting company.

I witness coworkers lunch and laugh like sisters, only to slam the door on one another (…like sisters) when the prospect of a promotion or opportunity to defame someone’s work comes up.

Often, people in PR have a kinship to their work that they mistake as “passion.” But to collect people’s friendship based on their stats, success and what they can do for you sounds exactly like a leech.

In PR, you need tough skin and a better poker face.

So, at this point you’re wondering why the hell I work in an industry I find draining and at times, demeaning.

There are forgiving parts; I love the sociology that goes behind advertising, and I love getting to meet new people in fascinating industries.

What you experience once you’re past the smoke and mirrors can be mentally stimulating and afford you some kick-ass swag bags and free merchandise, not gonna lie.

But that smoke is thick, and it’s suffocating, and I just want to profess that the employees probably don’t feel as #BLESSED as they pretend to be on Instagram.

And I’m willing to ruin my brand to admit that.