When PR Becomes ER: Why I Chose Friendship Over Career

The relationship between publicists and writers is one of true codependence.
Publish date:
June 4, 2012
career, friends, publicist, PR, writer

Have you ever been involved in the loss of a job? How about that of a friend? I found myself in this horribly uncomfortable situation recently. Some readers might notice an article that went up last week is now missing. Jane allowed me to remove it as a favor, to spare a close friend -- let’s call him B -- from being fired.

Let me back track for a second. B and I met as high-school freshmen in choir practice. He was a budding opera singer, while I lip-synced lazily. I had just moved to Connecticut from England and felt immediately out of place with my heavy makeup and too-tight clothing, while the other girls showed up to school barefaced wearing khakis and polo shirts.

“Is that real or fake?” Asked B, eyeing my Chinatown Murakami.

“It’s real,” I said, glancing at the poor imitation on my shoulder. We became inseparable.

Together we were loud, mischievous and irritating to everyone around us. B was the charming one, able to talk us into any party or club even at a young age. It was no surprise when after graduating from college he was hired as an assistant at a top PR agency, while I took a job as a copywriter, and after that a beauty blogger.

The relationship between publicists and writers is one of true codependence. Publicists are responsible for getting their clients’ products into the right hands and generating positive media coverage. Writers, specifically in the beauty world, look to publicists for access to new launches and product samples. Working together so closely means many of us are real friends like me and B.

Here’s where the article I had removed comes in. When B and his team sent me a high-profile new product for a spot on xoJane, I loved it and wrote a glowing and unconventional review, as we are wont to do here. B and his bosses thought the article was hilarious, but when the client saw it, everything changed. Furious that their brand had been associated with such an "edgy" website, they demanded to have the article killed. And so began a two-day war.

B’s agency was relentless, calling Corynne and Jane over and over, begging that the article be removed. Dealing with demanding clients makes it difficult for some publicists to remember it’s PR not ER. In the year that I worked as an in-house copywriter for a PR agency, I saw several girls lose their jobs quickly over a one-time mistake. When something goes wrong, letting a publicist go can appease a client who is ready to walk.

“Julie, I’m begging you as a friend,” said B. “I’m going to be fired if you don’t find a way to remove the article.

Publicists don’t dictate editorial content, which is why Jane stood her ground on keeping the post up. But because I couldn’t face being responsible for the loss of a friend’s job, Jane allowed me to take down the article as a personal favor.

Did I just ruin all my cred with you guys? What would you have done in my position?