PR Agency of Death

This blog has been dead for quite a while now. The reason for this has been work related. Everything in my life has been work related during the last 12 months. I left Paris in September 2008 because I was fed up with the never-ending cacophony of a stressed-out and arrogant capital, in which people suffocate because they don’t have any place to breathe, and they don’t want to go the the banlieues and live there because it’s not hip (and scary).

What did I get in Berlin? A 60-70 hours per week job with deadlines to meet every single day and paranoid, emotional bosses with dark hearts and dead souls. It took my partner to give me an honest kick in my lazy ass to sort me out and start writing applications and change my situation that wouldn’t have had any benefits except a heart attack at the age of 35, an infantile single life within the vicious circle of too much work and too much drink during the weekends, in order to forget the misery.

atompilzI’m not sure I still believe in self-fulfillment through work. It’s a bourgeois construction anyway. Five years of badly paid jobs have changed my mind. What I believe in now is life after work. This doesn’t mean that I will spend the rest of my days in front of the telly – it means that I’m not going to waste away for the profits of other people anymore. How come slavery is still around nowadays? Yes, it’s self-inflicted slavery of course. Nobody forced me to work in a PR agency. Perhaps I was stupid. But it seems to get harder for young people to move forward in times of crisis without selling themselves to the devil. If you think I’m exaggerating you should do a couple of months in the place I have been working at for the last year. It would make you think. And it would make you hate a system that allows the exploitation of young people.

Competition between PR agencies with a European scope is tough. They try to land big contracts set out by not only private companies but also e.g. the European Commission. The Commission generally chooses the cheapest offer and accepts (and knows) that people working for them in the external agencies are exploited. Why do they know this? Because they receive emails at 11pm or later at night and they have to deal with a new „consultant“ every other month because the turnover is so high. People can’t stand it anymore and leave. The bottom line is that the Commission accepts the exploitation of young people who are mostly interns and trainees without a lot of or hardly any work experience. And while the youngsters are slaving away with hardly any holiday, no significant payment and 60-70 hour/weeks, the Commission goes on holiday for 60 days a year or so and never works after 6pm while being paid a lot of cash.

I believe in Europe but there is definitely something wrong with the elitist „Kader“ approach the Commission is taking. I have met nice people in the Commission but I have also experienced arrogance that makes you wonder if these people actually know what they are doing – or if they know about real life out there. I even came across dubious Western-value-biased ideas on Eastern European countries while working on some of their projects. And this is the 21st century after all.

I hate working in the media sector. I wish I would have done something sensible instead of wasting my 20ies with trying to be cool and to make a career in this false and dishonest business. I don’t know if it’s a lot better someplace else. But what I do know is that I don’t want to work together with people anymore who think they are more important/better/hipper than others while being exploited by the neo-liberal cynics that have taken over. I’m sick of that. I look forward to my new private life. Don’t work in PR. If you have some heart and soul and moral values you will regret it. I look forward to spending some „quality time“ with my partner. I look forward to playing football, playing with the cat, playing the guitar, writing this blog, traveling, getting active in politics, whatever.

The EU directive for the organisation of working time (2003/88EC) states:

„Working time is the period during which the worker is working, at the employer’s disposal and carrying out his activity or duties, in accordance with national laws and/or practice. Member States take the measures necessary to ensure that every worker is entitled to:

  • a minimum daily rest period * of 11 consecutive hours per 24-hour period;
  • a rest break, where the working day is longer than six hours;
  • a minimum uninterrupted rest period of 24 hours for each seven-day period, which is added to the 11 hours‘ daily rest;
  • maximum weekly working time of 48 hours, including overtime;
  • paid annual leave of at least four weeks.“

6 Thoughts.

  1. PS: In 11 months I worked about 10 weeks overtime. None of these were paid. When I criticised the working conditions and the horrific work atmosphere, the HR department told me: „But it’s like this in all comm. agencies.“
    And my bosses said to me: „If you don’t like it, go work somewhere else. There are plenty of jobs out there.“ This was in the middle of the economic crisis.

  2. very good decision of yours to leave this. And interesting to note that slavery policies of the EU-„Kader“ functions on the same neoliberal principles as universities‘ third-party-funds outsourcing.

  3. Interesting indeed.
    How about an article on that my friend?

    The Commission does not have any kind of slavery policy. At least in communications they simply accept or ignore the working time policies of others. All they want are cheap external services.

    In fact, their contracting decisions are not primarily based on expected quality outcome – it’s about hiring cheap external comm agencies to promote European policy, which is not a popular way of spending tax payer money. I don’t think they are concerned about working conditions at all. To win the contracts, the agencies offer dumping prices for their services – for which the agency employees have to pay.

  4. Congrats! I’ve made similar experiences and also quit my PR agency job some weeks ago – unfortunately just because I really couldn’t bear it anymore: „Burnout“ say the doctors…

    But still: Like you I’m absolutely convinced that I’m never ever going to work in an agency any more. No more PR. It’s over. I had to struggle with similar thoughts of „wasted 20ies“. But despite the hard times we went through I’m sure we took out a lot of it – at least I do and I’m happy to now live a „life after“.

    What/whom are you now working for? Although you (temporarily?) lost your belief in fulfilment through work I hope that you’ve now found a job that makes you happy – in your very own definition.

    Take care!

  5. Thanks for your nice comment Verena. There were actually a lot of people that contacted me via email and facebook about this article, telling me about their experiences that are/were very similar to ours.

    I think the problem is that no one ca be really bothered to stand up and try to change things in an agency. It seems to be generally expected that they’re shit and that one should just not work there – or else shut up.

    It wouldn’t have taken me very long to have a burnout myself – and I would definitely have quit the agency even without the prospect of a new job.

    But I was lucky. I’m working for a publishing house as an online editor now. It’s great and I’m very happy – no more stress, regular working hours, etc…

    Hope you will feel better soon!

  6. Pingback: The tired PR agency consultant’s blues | Kennedy Calling

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