PR Pretty? STEUPS! Caribbean PR is more than looks!

A few ears ago I has an interview for one of the more enviable pr jobs in Trinidad and Tobago. After the first question, I knew I did not want the job. “Why isn’t your Miss Trinidad and Tobago or your Miss Universe finalist experience on your resume?”  My response was fast – I thought my master’s degree and professional experience ( international lecturing experience, 5 years experience (at that time) in strategic communication and PR) would be of greatest significance for those seeking a communication professional. I did not get the job. In the Caribbean, is PR about being “pretty”? The question is concerning to me. As we say in Trinidad and Tobago when someone “talks nonsense” – STEUPS!

Did My Miss Universe Experience Give Flight to My PR Career?

Did My Miss Universe Experience Give Flight to My PR Career?

Don’t get me wrong, my year long journey as Miss T&T did give me some insight into the local and international media. Being a 2004 MIss Universe finalist did teach me a hell of a lot about international even coordination, logistics, media and camera positioning (hell, ain’t no body that knows “camera readiness” like a beauty queen or a Miss Universe producer). For those like Shandi Finnessy (Miss USA universe 2004) or Jessica Rodrigues Miss Panama 2004, who both went on to successful TV careers, the pageant was a springboard.  My job however, is strategic and advisory, about positioning a company much more than it is about positioning myself.

I am still photographed and it does have a positive impact on the brand of my company (most times….). However, looks alone could not get me this far. Quite a few “ex models” and past beauty queens in the Caribbean do study communication – but I think the link between looks and the Communications field has a greater tie when it comes to journalism or pr agencies. Anya Ayong Chee – Miss T&T 2008 has a clothing line and has interest in a PR firm; Giselle La Ronde West, Miss World 1984 is a Communications Professional at Angostura; Penny Commisiong assisted in the PR for the cricket world cup 2007 held in the West Indies. So, maybe there’s trend.

To be a effective “PR person” in T&T (if not the Caribbean as a whole), one need have the right mix of professionalism, persistence, performance, persuasion and passion.

Professionalism: The ability to, at all times put the craft/ company/ your boss’ needs against your immediate ones. Professionalism is being courteous to everyone – including the not so nice man that yelled at me in the roti shop yesterday…Why? As the “PR” or “Communications” “person” (I must say I dislike these terms – but hey, its better than “spin doctor” – someone from my past used to call me that. It still crawls my blood) – as this person – your brand and that of the company/ clients you represent can become intertwined. This can be good – but when you want to “take a wine” for carnival or wear that VERY risque outfit – you can, and will, be accused of having an impact (good or bad) on the brands you work for.

Persistence: Nothing in life comes easy – especially in the Communications field. We ‘drive home’ messages, edit and re-edit documents to ensure consistent language and MOST OF ALL – we have to work with our clients/ bosses – to keep them on message – everyday/ all day with every media house AND then harass the media houses to run your stories. Yep, our work is never done.

Performance: The cutest PR professional will be let go if they can’t perform. Your work defines you in this field. If you want to be paid to look cute – be a model. Its easier – TRUST ME!

Persuasion: As a Caribbean Communicator you have to learn to say “That is as_ness” without being offensive to the media/ your boss/ your clients. I cannot tell you how often when Caribbean Communicators congregate you hear the stories of how they managed to work with an editor to get the RIGHT (of hell – accurate) story in the media OR how they had to convince their boss that the words the lawyer wants to put in a media release mean NOTHING to the intended audience. Sigh – persuasion is the part of our field I have the greatest challenge with. I like saying that is SH_T! Just not at work…

Passion: If you do not love communicating, if you do not love writing/ rewriting/ editing and reediting, if you do not like attending events and if you do not like being thrown into the spotlight – channel your inner cuteness and pursue another career. For this field you must LOVE what you do so much that you do all the WORK in the day time and learn more about it at night. As a Caribbean Communicator, every conversation is a research opportunity/ learning experience. Love what you do. PR in the Caribbean can’t be just a job.

Add those elements to a strong back bone and ta da! You’ll be “crowned’ (LOL) an excellent Caribbean Communicator.

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4 Responses to “PR Pretty? STEUPS! Caribbean PR is more than looks!”

  1. D Says:

    I think that particularly in the Caribbean, misconceptions abound when it comes to ‘beauty queens’ and particularly beauty queens in the field of PR/Communications. Like you, my beauty queen experience came after my PR/Communications qualifications and each was mutually exclusive of the other having no causal relationship other than the fact that my outgoing personality may have aided my success into each foray.
    Like you I do not see my ‘pageant experience’ as relevant to my CV,
    but there are other beauty queens who, for want of a better expression, give us a bad name. Those who capitalise on their pageant popularity and use it to secure cushy jobs in fields which there is a real or imagined advantage to be derived from having a high profile figure, thereby cheapening the field that we have worked and studied so hard to master. I don’t give them wrong, more power to them, but it’s hard enough to disabuse people of the idea that a Communications or PR degree is “fluff.”
    I once worked for a company where one of the VPs was a former beauty queen who, it had been long speculated, got her position based solely on her celebrity and connections since she had none of the requisite qualifications for the position. One of the two managers under her (Corp.Comm.) was another former beauty queen whose qualifications and competence was unquestionable. I reported to this manager and although I never mention my ‘pageant days’ a little birdie squealed and it came back to me that a certain other female VP who had no respect or appreciation for the importance of PR/Communications had lumped our division as one full of beauty queens who did nothing all day. Sad.

    Anyway I said all that to say I completely understand where you’re coming from and “yuh damn right!” 🙂

  2. Beverly Says:

    Really enjoying your blog Danielle. I had to comment on this one because it reminds me of my job as a teacher. Not about the being pretty part (even though it helps to look good because students WILL comment or snicker if you’re otherwise) but because of all the traits that are required. Each and every one you describe here applies…even the persuasion. LOL
    I can’t “take a wine” on carnival either, because somewhere unknown to me, is a student or parent/guardian or both…..just watching and waiting to see what I do.

  3. Karel - Caribbean Public Relations Says:

    I was quite surprised when someone had brought this up, simply because I thought we had evolved as a profession where people value communications practitioners for their skills and experience. Hence the post. Sadly though, some still have the view. Certainly, I think/hope this chauvanist view about pretty etc is in the minority.

    Nevertheless, I’m a firm believer that hard work goes a long way and is the real barometer of performance.

    Good post btw.

  4. Marc Says:

    There’s a question I’m just dying to ask but somehow I don’t think a public forum like this is the right place for it – see, Marc knows some PR too. 😉

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