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JUNE 5, 2019 //     

For Women in PR, Challenging the Status Quo Means Letting Go

By: Anne Colaiacovo


Today I have the incredible honor of being named to PRWeek’s 2019 “Hall of Femme.” In PRWeek’s words, this distinction “honors leaders in the communications industry who challenge the status quo, move the needle in business and strive to make a difference.” As I read those words, I thought about each quality and how they relate to my career.

When I first started in the PR industry, and particularly at an agency, there were many preconceived notions about how my career would play out. Some of these were mine, while others were thrust upon me.

I would work long hard hours (OK, I can do that!).

I would be the youngest, and often the only, woman in more rooms than I could count (Bring it on!).

I would “fake it ‘til I made it” and never dream of letting down my boss, mentor, clients or team (That pressure was exhausting!).

If I worked hard, I would be rewarded. There would be no need to negotiate or lobby (This was fine, until it wasn’t.).

As a woman, my career had an expiration date. If I wanted to have children, I would likely have to pivot and change course to “have it all.” (That was BS!)

And so many more.

As I got years under my belt, I realized the “status quo” wasn’t just doing a disservice to me. More importantly, it was doing a disservice to my teams and our industry. For me, to really challenge the status quo, I had to challenge myself and step out of my comfort zone. I had to leave a job I was comfortable in and take one that scared that sh*t out of me.

I learned to trust my gut, surround myself with people smarter than me, take chances and completely let go of the fear of failure. I wasn’t just going to come to work every day – I was going to build something. 

The exciting thing about viewing my career as a way to build something – something that lasts long beyond me – was that it gave this business I always loved a meaning it never had before. Now everything I did had a ripple effect for the people coming after me. So, now, I really meant business.

But all the preconceived notions had to go.

I wasn’t just going to work hard. I was going to work smart. Now I’ve got two kids to get home to. Some days, that means getting up and working at 5 a.m. so I can be at the dance class at 4 p.m. Some days, that means going to the mat for an idea I know is going to work. Some days, that means saying no to a client or piece of business because they don’t really value PR and what we bring to the table.

Now, I may no longer be the youngest woman in the room, but I must make a place for all the young women coming up in the agency. And that is my greatest honor.

I’m incredibly lucky to work in a place where I feel like my value is known and acknowledged. But I also had to learn my own worth and ask for the roles and responsibilities I really wanted. It’s also up to me to create this same scenario for everyone. Whether that is through mentoring, overhauling our review process, throwing out and rewriting our parental leave policy, or simply diligently giving feedback and guidance.

Working at Allison+Partners for more than 10 years, I’ve been surrounded by the most creative, intelligent, strategic thinkers in the world. I’ve been lucky enough to be mentored by leaders whose vision has shown me public relations can do more to drive results than any other discipline – and that there are no limits to what we can achieve if we stick to our agency’s core values and put people first.

Now, I know I can be president and a mom. I’m incredibly proud to have been a part of creating an environment that is flexible to this, and to every day be an example to those who may still struggle with the misconceptions I used to have. I’m still “faking it ‘til I make it!” But I’ve learned stress and fear are not tied to success. I’ve learned when I’m able to let go of the fear, the anxiety and the worry, I free up room in my brain to think, and to be creative, strategic and happy.

Anne Colaiacovo is the president of North America at Allison+Partners. In addition to being inducted to PRWeek’s 2019 “Hall of Femme,” she was was named one of the outlet’s “40 Under 40” in 2014.

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