Gillian Waddell, MD of Fuel PR and chairman of the CIPRs women in PR group, talks about her friends and enemies

Gillian Waddell, managing director of Fuel PR and chairman of the CIPR's Women in PR group, discusses why she loves having friends, and why she quite likes having enemies too …

“When I was young, I had no friends or enemies in the world of PR and the media. There were three reasons for this – first, I was too busy licking stamps to think about making my tongue move in different directions; second, I was too ignorant; and third, I was simply too terrified of the glamorous and successful people I was surrounded by. It took three years in a big agency, nearly 14 years in a much smaller agency, and close to a mid-life crisis before I realised I was alarmingly short of people in both categories. The wake-up call came unexpectedly late on a Friday evening. By the following Monday morning I’d got to grips with the importance of friends and enemies in the great traverse through PR life.

“Firstly, friends. The good thing about friends is they like you, they sustain you,
and in a robust, roller-coaster industry like PR, you need quite a lot of them.
Even if you choose to specialise in one sector, it’s important to know people in
others. Bankers, builders, electricians, doctors, teachers, fellow stamp lickers –
you need them all. Now that I am nearly 49, I understand this and am eternally
grateful the wake-up call did not come any later. My friends, within and without
the industry, have taught me all kinds of things, shared all manner of experiences
and contributed massively in no ends of ways. We all need friends and we should seek to make as many friendly relationships as we can. I am constantly struck by
how many young people today do not have enough friends or contacts or allies. My advice to you is to make them. Make as many as you can. You need them on the way up, and oh boy, are they comforting when the bottom threatens to crash out of our life, and make no mistake, this happens to most of us. Don’t live in an ivory tower, get out and about, meet people, don’t rely on electronic relationships – make friends.

“Same as with enemies! It’s quite fun having some! They give you traction and
competitive edge. It’s surprisingly useful knowing why some people don’t like you
or the organisation you work for or represent. They can give you a benchmark, a
reason to get up and go each day, a reason to compete and win, and sometimes an even better reason for losing. You might not enjoy the experience at the time, but if you’re lucky, life’s a long game, and oddly your enemies can be weirdly
rewarding and motivating. Worst-case scenario, they force you to think, and that’s quite a good thing.

“We’re all tempted to stick within our comfort zones, with what’s known and
familiar. Change and changing ourselves are tricky issues for most people,
requiring time, effort and sometimes harsh, radical reappraisal. Pushing yourself
in different directions is neither easy or pleasant. I recently forced myself to do
something quite difficult with three people I’ve historically viewed as “enemies”,
and the looks on their respective faces when they realized I was about to outwit
them with a “gift” of substantial advantage to them (and zilch to me) together with the new friendship opportunities which arose as a result were both fascinating and rewarding.

“Personal relationships are critical in PR. Trendy black suits, emails and all the
Powerpoints in the world are no substitute for heart-and-soul, give-and-take
relationships. And licking stamps is cold comfort for warm heartbeats.”

Career historyNow years: Boutique agency, varying industry and health and well-being interests plus life!

Early years: Publishing houses, big agency, smallish agency

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