A constant gripe among some sections of the PR industry is that they are not taken seriously enough by what Americans call the “C-suite” – top management. I’m not surprised. Too many PR people think they should be respected as management material despite turning up to work dressed in jeans and t-shirts, as though this somehow makes them more creative.
I see it in agencies, filled with 21-year-olds wearing £300 designer, super-skinny fit jeans. They look fashionable – and junior. And their older bosses look ridiculous, totally failing to pull off the hipster look.
The successful people in the PR industry, the ones who do get taken seriously, are the ones who put on a suit and tie (or smart female attire). It indicates that they are serious about their job, commercially minded, and can fit in with board-level decision-making.
Alas, the notion has gone around that suits and ties are overkill – not just in PR but in the workplace more generally. I met a young graduate at an event who complained that no one in politics would hire him. He’d been to lots of interviews but none had been successful. He was dressed scruffily and hadn’t shaved in over a week. I asked him if he wore a suit for his interviews. “Oh no, I don’t believe in them,” he explained. I wasn’t surprised by the young man’s lack of success.
The truth is that outside of Soho and Shoreditch, business still regards smart attire favourably. For the PR industry, which is supposed to understand about communication, the suit and tie is a signal that’s vital in the gaining respect of other top people.