In my life before working in PR and fundraising, I spent a number of years working in and managing commercial art galleries, mostly selling limited edition photography. When taking on the role, one of the first things that was made clear was expectations around dress code. Namely: you should dress smart as a reflection of the target market and type of clients the owners expected to frequent the gallery. This made sense to me at the time, so didn't think much of it.
But as time has gone on and I've made a switch to working in a different field, the concept seems increasingly unnecessary to me. You see, one of the other things you learn pretty early on in sales roles is that people invariably are buying from you, not the company. Customers will often buy as a direct result of liking you as a person.
So, with that in mind, why would you actively try and present a personal image which isn't 100% authentic? I think it's reasonable to say that the majority of people prefer you to be 'real', rather than trying to fit into their expectations in order to sell them something.
Fast forward to today, and something I've found myself saying more and more in recent weeks is that the more experienced I am, the less professional I become. If I'm honest this isn't entirely true (I think I conduct myself in a mature and professional way) but the mindset that accompanies the statement is definitely close.
It's taken years of different roles and working with dozens of other organisations to gain the confidence to actually just be myself, dress how I want and not worry about trying to say the right thing all the time to keep customers, clients or partners happy.
Not long ago someone told me I look like an extra from a mid-90s Kevin Smith film. Whereas in the past this might have made me think again about the backwards cap aesthetic, upon receiving the comment I couldn't have been happier. It might not be the most 'professional' look, but I like it and if a cap on the wrong way round is an obstacle to an organisation working with me, it's likely we'd run into far bigger problems down the road. Besides, I quite like Kevin Smith films.
It's a constant process, but it's become important to me to be as authentic as possible with people I work with. It might mean I miss out on some business from time to time, but I'd rather work with those who appreciate me for who I am and what I bring to the table. After all, that's the kind of person I like to work with anyway. Real recognises real!
With the effects of coronavirus and the subsequent countermeasures being taken having a profound and long lasting impact on the way we live and work, there have already been countless blogs and articles covering the topic of working from home. I'm generally not one to blow my own trumpet. But as someone who has worked at least three days a week (or more) from home for the past six years, I've both developed and learnt a few tactics to help get the most out of my day. Some of these are directly work-relevant, others are more lifestyle related. All of them play a part in enabling me to actually get shit done.
I've been working with charities and other non-profits for the past six years, much of it providing public relations support. And as anyone who has worked in the sector for any length of time will know, that often means scrabbling to get your story into a handful of sector-specific publications or sections of national publications like Society in The Guardian.
From a PR consultant's point of view, this is hardly the perfect set up. More importantly, as someone who has worked in and for charities, it's a terrible state of affairs for the sector as a whole. I know for a fact there are countless stories, opinions and voices that are simply going unheard because of a lack of access to relevant platforms.
With the effects of coronavirus effective laying waste to countless organisations and relatively little in the way of coverage for the plight of hundreds of charities across the country, this is a situation that seriously needs to change.
When working as a consultant, you rely on your ability to identify and secure customers. Your existence depends on it. But having worked as a service provider for a reasonable portion of my career, I've learnt that business development and the process of finding and onboarding new customers, clients or partners is rarely what you think it might be.
It's not often I take inspiration from comic book villains in my professional life, but I have to admit Heath Ledger's Joker struck a chord with his comment on the importance of valuing your skillset. For those less familiar, the quote goes: "If you're good at something, never do it for free". Now, I firmly believe it's our responsibility as professionals to ensure our craft - be it public relations, fundraising or copywriting - is appreciated, respected and, ultimately, valued. The same is true for many professions. Yet should this always be the case?