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The scruff, the diva and the freelance wardrobe

17/05/2011

Sam Howard on why actually it does matter what you wear even if no one is watching.

this is now as ‘fancy’ as i get…

The day I turned freelance was marked by a ceremonial trip to the loft where I deposited my dry clean onlys, anything with cuffs or collars and my entire collection of 40 denier. As for the suits I gleefully deposited the lot at Oxfam with a note of apology.

On the way home I popped into M&S for several pairs of their finest tracky bottoms, (first time I have ever considered velour as a valid option) and tatty Ts. ‘That’s me.’ I thought, ‘I’m a proper freelancer now, all chill and unassuming with an elasticated waist’.

Over time this basic uniform was added to with several layers of indeterminate styling but always including leg warmers, hiking socks and sheepskin slippers as my tootsies were in a perpetual state of perma-frost. Looking back, it was about this time that Elliot said I need not pick him up from school any more.

There was also a weird side effect of looking a tad casual by day in that I possibly over compensated of an evening: rocking up to watch the match on the neighbour’s HD in full vintage;, an early evening showing of Rio sporting a doorframe-bashing bouffant; and mincing to Asda in killer heels, full make up & ‘no photos please’ sunnies. Again Elli seemed to be dawdling somewhat when it came to accompanying his mama with the trolley.I’m not sure where it might have ended, (what is the female equivalent of a wife-beater vest?) if it hadn’t have been for the very lovely Cherry Chappell, who recently gave an inspiring chat on the joys of freelance at the CIPR.

“The thing is,” she began solemnly, “One is never to wear slippers,” and I felt her eyes bore into mine, as if she knew! “It’s very, very important.” she said slowly for the slowest of us to catch up.

The reason why it was so important, she explained, was because I was very important now too. Indeed I was the CEO and the President of My Own Company. And as the CEO and President of My Own Company I should dress accordingly, affording myself the respect I deserved for being so very brave and clever. “And that starts,” she said making her hands into a steeple, “By how you chose to dress.”And the thing is I can see she has a point. One of the trickiest things I have noticed in these early months, is to stay consistent in your self-belief. You no longer have the job title, the rank and recognition that you had in the ‘real world’, nor do you have the support and sense of perspective your cronies gave you, cackling around the water cooler swapping ‘you think you’re having a bad day’ horror stories. You can only look to yourself for courage and encouragement. But if ‘yourself’ looks unemployable, then it’s not really going to give you that boost you need. Because in freelance as much as there isn’t anyone to rain on your parade, there’s no one to tell you you’re a little superstar either. That’s your job now. You need to look in the mirror and feel quietly confident – not like calling NHS Direct.

So thanks to Cherry’s fashion fix, these days I put a decent level of care into my appearance, even the flip flops are colour coordinated. Best of all, Elliot said if I keep this up he’ll let me come and watch his school play. Though part of me still hopes it’s the Rocky Horror Picture Show.


Imagine a world without tech PRs

05/05/2011

anyone interested in my very clever idea that you wouldn’t understand and i don’t know why any one would buy it?

Sam Howard wonders do we really need tech PRs?

A recent survey by Careers Cast suggested that the life of a PR was second only to being a pilot in terms of stress.

“It’s not rocket science!” blasted journos all over twitter.

Very true, but PR can be a trite fraught on occasion. To illustrate my point lets imagine a world where there were no PRs, because everyone in The World of Tech was just so good at connecting and communicating…

Once upon a time, there was an incredibly enthusiastic and irrepressible young journalist, to him the glass was always half full, not that he was much of a drinker, mind! One day he had to catch a bus into the village to buy more type writer ribbon. He planned to use this time on the bus to fact and spell check his work before submitting it to his editor. “You are such a perfectionist!” The wise, old gentleman would kindly chide him, whenever he handed in his copy just a little late.

In the next village there lived the most charming and charismatic inventor you could ever hope to meet. She also had to catch the bus to visit the local ironmonger, who she had commissioned to make some more phalangees, a critical component in her latest invention.

Well, it must have been fate, for on that day, these two jovial people just happened to sit next to each other. Both of them being out-going types, in possession of exceptional social skills, they soon fell into a happy rapport. In no time at all the earnest inventor was telling the curious journalist all about phalangees and their properties in an extraordinarily level of detail. The journalist had all the time in the world to listen to the long list of features that each permutation of phalangees delivered; indeed he was gripped. Having both missed their stops, they were now walking companionably back into the village together and the journalist used his psychic skills to ascertain the unique business benefits that phalangee-based engineering could deliver to his readers.

And so with a great shout of excitement the journalist stopped in the lane and cried, “I believe this to be the singularly most important technological discovery of our time! And even though my beat is actually musical theatre, I’m sure my editor will give me the cover story to tell the world all about it.”

Well, the inventor was somewhat overcome and demurred, “Golly that’s terribly decent of you, but do you think you might wait a while before you write anything as I now realise I’m not quite geared up for discovery just yet?”

The journalist nodded solemnly, and true to his word the story was published quite some time later, once the inventor had taken her suit to the cleaners, decided on her company logo and got the phalangee-based product range to stop blowing up.

Within hours of that one story breaking, everybody was talking about it, and, Ashton Kutcher, Lady Gaga, Kanye West and Stephen Fry were all begging to be among the first to beta test it and the company share price shot up and overnight the inventor became a multi-millionaire.

As for the journalist, he was ever after regarded as a technology guru whose wise words would forever be commissioned throughout the land. And they all lived largely ever after…

Yeah, like that happens all the time!

If it did there might be no need for PRs to help companies articulate their offering in a coherent way that delivered compelling copy to the media. But it  very rarely does and and making it so is sometimes a thankless task. But the second most stressful career?

OK if it wasn’t for us PRs the wheels of commerce might have to travel a road more pot holed, but no, it’s not rocket science, nor is it like flying a plane, or being a nurse, a fire fighter, a policeman, a prison warder, a teacher, a carer, or even a journalist…All jobs have a level of stress associated with them and in PR I think we might secretly like it, it’s nice to be needed.