Running the Race in Public Relations

How running a race can train you for PR.
By Adele Soh
The Hoffman Agency, Singapore

My greatest achievement in 2014 was completing my first-ever half marathon. Running never came easy to me, especially in my formal schooling years where annual physical tests were mandatory. Yes, the seemingly short 2.4km run used to be my biggest nemesis.

As I reflect on my 21km run, I have come to realize how completing a half marathon has paralleled my career in the PR industry. Having past my third-year mark at Hoffman in April, I’ve learned three lessons that have helped me to run the race this far.

If someone had told me three years ago that I would be able to complete a half marathon, I would definitely think that person was crazy! When I first picked up running a couple of years back, I did not start by training for a half marathon. Instead I focused on finding an aspect of running that I enjoyed. Initially, that task seemed impossible, but after a while, I gradually fell in love with running.

The same principle can be applied to a career in PR. When I began my PR career at Hoffman as an intern, there were many aspects of the job that overwhelmed me, and I questioned whether I had taken the right career path. However, the turning point came when I began to enjoy the satisfaction in securing interest from the media with a good pitch or being able to overcome a particularly difficult client. Actually enjoying what I was doing made the long hours worth it, knowing that what I was doing made a difference to my client or the organization.

The most tiring point in my half marathon came at the 15km mark — it was the moment when my body was exhausted, both mentally and physically. All I wanted to do was stop running and quit the race.

What stopped me from quitting? The determination and commitment to complete the race set before me. I reminded myself of the many hours I set aside to train and how it would all come to naught if I simply walked away.

Sometimes a career in PR is a bit like running a marathon. There are ups where your energy and motivation keep you going, and there are downs, when you feel like your tank is empty and there’s simply nothing left to keep you going. There came a point in my career that brought me to my breaking point; I’ll never forget having to speak with my mentor and having to process all that had happened.

There were two options that were laid before me: I could walk away or I could pick myself up and move forward. Honestly walking away seemed a lot easier, but I also knew that I owed it to myself to see my journey through. From then on, I learned that sometimes things don’t work out the way we planned. So instead of beating myself up, I now pick myself up, learn from it and move on.

The last lesson I learned from my run actually came from a friend who had been training with me from the beginning. At the last 5km, she said, “Adele, this is your race, you’re going to complete this on your own because you can do it.” Then she sped off, leaving me to finish the race on my own. It took a lot of effort to finish the last leg as my body was exhausted, but she was right. I knew it was my race, and I was capable of finishing it.

A wise person once told me, “If you’re looking for a job that makes you feel appreciated, you’re in the wrong line!” That really is the nature of this industry. Not every client is going to praise us for a good job or not every media contact is going to be grateful that we had to call in favors to get them our spokesperson’s comment before the deadline. However, what keeps me going is knowing that even if I receive no praise for my work, as long as I am proud and happy with the work I delivered, that’s all that matters.

Running a race is just like working in the PR industry. In order to succeed, you need to enjoy what you do, you need determination and commitment, and lastly, you will need to believe in yourself even if everyone does not seem to.

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