The moment I turned 16 and bought my own car, I carpeted the seats in leopard fur and made absolutely sure there was a psuedo-microphone in every side pocket and door handle. Pop anthems from the 80s and 90s were a staple, as were chinese fire drills and road trips. My friends and I may have unwittingly become teen girl stereotypes, but we never felt like we were conforming to a standard or expectation and I didn’t put much thought into it. We were simply learning and embracing who we were and figuring out where we wanted to go.
I continue to value that free-spirited nature so evident in my teenage years. In fact, last week I decided it was time to impart some microphone-love to my team at The Abbi Agency. The message was slightly different, because while I’m all for continuing to belt out the tunes, it’s also important to remember what that object symbolizes: a voice.
I have sometimes been afraid of my own voice, questioning where and when best to use it. What I’ve found to be most important, is that with a voice must come an action. To say something powerful and provoking doesn’t mean anything unless you follow through. On my soapbox that Monday morning, here’s what I asked my team to do with their personalized microphone:
Lead Your Client
Our clients pay us money to be experts in our field — to take risks and overcome barriers. Inspire them. Ask why. Provide recommendations.
Ask Questions – Have Solutions
Asking legit, thoughtful questions and outlining viable solutions to a problem shows thought leadership and problem-solving skills. Those two things are very powerful, especially when combined.
Be An Advocate For Your Team; Your Agency
Support each other! Be positive! We do awesome things. Talk about them.
It was a fun staff meeting and I think everyone walked away with a little pep in their step (not to mention a fabulous new accessory). I might have had a different gifting approach should our office be equally gender-mixed. It’s not. We are comprised of mostly women, as is the majority of our industry.
When an article was shared later that week about PR girls, I read it and found the humor. I even tweeted it. But the topic spurred some pretty serious debate, mostly about sexism and accuracy as to what we actually do and why it entails more than just looking cute. And that got me thinking. As an adult, it’s a lot harder to disregard a stereotype, particularly when you’ve worked (and continue to work) in an environment that is constantly changing and full of professional pressure.
I can’t relate to being at the gym by 6 a.m. sending emails from a treadmill. I can relate to having my shit so buttoned up that while packing my two-year-old’s lunch, reciting Elsa’s lines from Frozen and chugging homemade coffee, I am not only sending emails to my boss, client, team; I’m strategizing, organizing, planning, recapping and juggling the day that has barely begun. I am not one to brag about productive conversations because they are a requirement of my job, and I will rock a statement necklace and 3-inch heels, all while writing a solid, succinct email. That doesn’t require physical fitness, but rather critical thinking, organization and articulation. I have to be on my A-game and that means I have to use my brain.
Getty Images had the gusto to revitalize imagery of women in the workplace with the launch of their “Lean In Collection.” The gallery features more than 2,500 photos devoted to the depiction of women, girls and the people who support them. I’ve had the pleasure of working with this brand and also the opportunity to attend several of their workshops, which discuss the changing landscape of imagery. Pretty amazing stuff – how words and images can shape and define perception. I continue to be impressed by their progressive platforms.
So to the PR “girls” out there, challenge the stereotype with your actions. Be the protagonist of your own story, the hero of your own image. And there’s nothing wrong with using a bedazzled, glittered microphone along the way. You too, boys.
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