I spent many years working hard to draw attention to other people--specifically, authors. All that time I was content to stay in the background, where a publicist belongs. I think certain people may be drawn to publicity work because they're interested in the media, but don't want to get any on them. When a publicist or PR rep is the center of attention, it usually means the organization is in crisis mode, or worse (remember Lizzie Grubman?).
I think this is particularly true of book publicists. I've been at this for more than two decades but you'd have to search far and wide to find any mention of me in the media. (And you'd have to wade through tons of stuff about Knicks forward Larry Hughes and how overrated he is, so spare yourself.) Deirdre Donahue, who covers books at USA Today, sent me a personal email after I'd been laid off in which she made the following observations:
One of the things I have most admired about people in book publishing over the years is their other-directedness. The good ones are always focused on promoting an author and their work, not themselves. . . . I like to annoy my coworkers at the newspaper by pointing out that I find people in publishing more interesting because of this very quality (in fact, I find people in book publishing more interesting as people than most authors…). There is such a relentless quality of ‘me me me’ to most writers and journalists. Spending your career looking outward creates interesting people.
I agree. (Duh! I was in book publishing.) Or perhaps I should say, I used to agree. Circumstances are different now--for me, for book publicists, for everyone. Since I was laid off, I have tried to draw attention to myself out of necessity, as a way to stand out in the world's worst job market. But even people who still have their jobs are looking out for #1 more than ever--as they watch their friends and colleagues lose their jobs, they'd be crazy not to. My daughter is graduating from college this weekend. She'll be part of a new generation of employees who will quickly learn to put themselves (and their social networks) ahead of their employers because job security is a thing of the past. That bond of employer/employee loyalty has been broken, perhaps irrevocably. I wonder if corporations have factored that cost into their bottom lines as they cut overhead by laying people off. I think they'll be amortizing it over many years to come, even after the elusive recovery.Meanwhile, I'm blogging. About me. But Twitter? No way.