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Thursday 5 August 2010

GUEST BLOGGER: Tiffany Farrington, Social Diary

This week's guest blogger is Tiffany Farrington, one of the most well connected PRs in Australia. She is a perfect example of how good ol' fashioned hard work, ahead-of-the-game ideas, and an understanding of social media - before the term was even coined - can make you a huge success in such a competitive industry.
There is nothing Tiffany doesn't know about PR; and she really is one of the pioneers in the field. I met Tiff when she was a publicist at Spin Communications and I was Associate Editor at Cream magazine. We bonded over our love for magazines at a crazy karaoke night (don't go there). She was basically running operations at Fashion Week, and having always been such a powerhouse, it made sense to branch out on her own. After setting up Breakfast PR (in a nod to the Audrey Hepburn classic Breakfast at Tiffany's), she founded the like-nothing-else-out-there Social Diary site, which started as a way to have PRs know when each other's events were happening, so there were few clashes for invited guests. Genius.

Tiffany also writes a Social Diary blog, and below is a blog post from her very entertaining site. If you are in PR, you'll agree with every single point...

See more and follow her on: http://www.socialdiaryaustralia.blogspot.com/

You know you work in PR when...
PR is not just a job, it tends to completely permeate the very fabric of your life. A budding young PR girl Kaaran inspired this week's blog when we started discussing what you should do when you forget someone's name at a party. PRs always know, so it got me thinking of all the quirks that make PRs some of my very favourite people to be around. They are usually the kids who had the best dress-ups, nailed show & tell, and told the best stories in the playground...then worked out how to get paid for it.

So you know you work in PR when...

...your social life is back to front
A normal social person works hard from Monday to Friday, spending most evenings in front of the TV, perhaps a dinner out or the movies. When they get to Friday they can let their hair down, and they usually do it all again on Saturday night - spending Sunday recovering with a lie-in, breakfast and the papers. When you work in PR, everything is in reverse. Tuesday, Wednesday & Thursday become the best nights to party and you become a master at backing it up the next day; Friday becomes dinner with friends and Saturday & Sundays are spent gloriously couch-bound watching Foxtel and recovering from the crazy week. Nothing would ever, ever get me out on a Saturday night apart from my best friend's wedding. I believe the only universal night at home for everyone, PR or otherwise, is Monday.

...you read the Sunday papers on Saturday night
This is a terrible habit I got into when I was running Breakfast PR and my work completely revolved around the social pages. I simply couldn't wait to see my client's coverage the next day so would go to the newsagent where they make the first drop of the Sunday papers every Saturday night at 7pm. It's on Darlinghurst Rd next to the Fire Station for the uninitiated! If you get into this habit please don't blame me for the inevitable disappointment the following morning when you wake, stretch, think about the day ahead and how you can't wait to have a big breakfast and read the papers...then realise you already have. You've been warned.

...you know how to get away with a forgotten name
People in PR are expected to remember everyone's names, which I think is highly unfair considering the sheer volume of people we meet on a weekly basis as part of our job. Yet we are the a-holes when we blank on someone - come on, surely it's relative? So over the years I've come up with a no-fail trick. If I'm standing with a friend and someone I swear I have NEVER seen before says "Tiff, Hi how are you!" I immediately say "hey SO good to see you! You have to meet my friend Jessie!" as I spin around to grab my phone out of my pocket or bag. The person then instinctively introduces themselves to Jessie, eg "Hi, I'm Tom!" and hearing this, I immediately say "So Tom what have you been up to?" Always ask them questions about themselves as the penny will eventually drop and you'll know who they are. Works every time. And if I ever do this to you, please be kind and play along - it happens to the best of us.

...you know how to mingle
This is a highly underestimated skill, and one that comes from years of party practice. Some people don't know how to do it, and therefore stick with their group of friends all night and meet noone new, or worse, get stuck with a dreadful bore they can't break away from. Learning to mingle will significantly increase your enjoyment of parties and allow you to be in control of who you meet and who you spend time with. PRs do this better than anyone, so watch them and learn! The rule is to never, ever be rude. Know some sure-fire lines that will allow you to politely detach from a person/group and slink away to the next one. If you can, make your exit line entertaining so at least the person you're leaving gets a laugh (not at their own expense). An example: "Please excuse me, I have to rescue that poor girl my friend is hitting on". This one is great because I take alot of male friends to events, so it's usually true.

...you know how to handle your alcohol
Alcohol is a fairly permanent fixture in the life of the PR, so one must learn how to handle it at an early stage. Noone wants to be known as "the drunk publicist" and let me tell you, there are a couple around. I like a drink so have always been in perpetual fear of being described as such, and thus have never allowed it to happen (well, I most certainly hope not!) I always allowed my staff a couple of drinks after their duties at an event were done, and put the fear of God in them that if they ever overdid it they too could become known as *insert ominous tone* the drunk publicist. I'm pleased to report it freaked them out sufficiently.

...everything can be made into a canape
I often say that the humble canape is why I pursued a career in events, and jokes aside it's not far from the truth. It's a delectable mouthful requiring no commitment, it often resembles a work of art, and it can make or break a party. As a result, my culinary pursuits tend to centre around them. When I was backpacking through Europe my sister & I camped in Greece for a month and dazzled our tent-neighbours with our creations each evening. Everything became a canape: thin rounds of bread with cheese laid out platter-style, topped with slivers of capsicum (one red, one yellow and one green sliver artfully placed of course), assorted homemade dips, and for dessert: discs of banana topped with a dollop of Nutella. Pretty soon everyone ditched their usual camp fare and partied on at ours... only if they were on the guest list, naturally. (See previous blog: How To Get On The Guest List).

...you are always looking for a story
Do you walk into any bar/cafe/airplane looking for a famous face? A celebrity couple? A hint of scandal? As one PR friend said: "I can't even enjoy a meal without scouring round the restaurant for a famous face in case I need to call Syd Con." When you have the papers on speed dial and the gossip journos are in your wedding party you know you're a PR to the very core.

Or as Sara Bray succinctly put it, you know you're in PR when someone says "you should work in PR!"
...and of course, you already do.

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