Professional public relations practitioners advocate honest and transparent comms. This applies within the workplace but is important personally too. So when does being open cross the line to become an invasion of privacy?
A year or so ago, Stephen Waddington (@Wadds) and I started dating. Stephen's profile within the PR industry is a significant one as a recognised innovator and influencer (#proud). Mine is much smaller but growing thanks to #FuturePRoof and my role as CIPR President-Elect.
We've never tried to hide our relationship. When I stood for the role of CIPR President it was on the bottom of my website manifesto page (still is in fact) and we have been careful to always reference it whenever we've felt it appropriate. However we've also tried to balance that with the need of our personal lives to respect our families' and children's privacy.
We've continued our professional relationship as before, as seen through the #FuturePRoof podcasts and more. We don't see a reason why we can't continue to work together. Hell, we do it really well.
People who follow us on Twitter (and Stephen has 20k+ followers) would say our real life partnership is obvious from the regular interaction between the two of us. Our Facebook communities (again Stephen's comprises hundreds of PR folk) will have seen enough date night pictures to cast away any doubt. On our profile pages it even says we are 'in a relationship'. In 2017 terms that's proper serious.
Stop the snark
So it was disappointing last week when Stephen tweeted an update of my #FuturePRoof research from #PRfest to receive yet another anonymous comment on his blog from someone suggesting we were unprofessional for not being overt about our personal status. It's a shame they didn't put their name to it as I'd have happily had this debate openly with them but that says more about the individual than it does about us.
In light of this I've taken the unusual step of changing my Twitter bio to say 'Dating @Wadds'. At the time it was done tongue in cheek but it raises a serious point. How overt do we have to be before it crosses into personal territory and becomes an invasion of privacy?
Couples work together all the time
Stephen and I are not the first couple to work together and we'll certainly not be the last. I can immediately think of four different businesses in my small PR circle all run by husband and wife teams. They don't need to splash it on everything they do and certainly don't wear his and hers 'dating' or 'hitched' t-shirts. Well, maybe they do at home but that's their own business.
But as a professional communicator I am TIRED by this ongoing and tedious narrative that people apparently can't work and live together without having it tattooed on their foreheads (could this be a nascent form of personal branding?). Or - as is actually the situation here - that full and constant disclosure has to apply to the two of us, even if no one else.
Less than three months ago I was told by a do gooder that people think I have 'compromised my professional integrity' by dating Stephen and that my reputation will never recover. Good morning Britain, where everyday sexism is alive and well.
The fact that this continues to be an issue for some people makes me think that there are other factors at play; perhaps professional jealousy, or perhaps trolling others is what gives people their self worth.
I’d urge people to scrutinise the work we do on its professional merits. We believe it’s having a positive impact but if you feel differently, let us know where you think we are going wrong. Feedback is always welcome.
Taylor says shake it off
Stephen and I have had some amazing support from people we love and respect (thank you) because this has been a recurring theme despite our best attempts to approach the situation in a common sense and human way.
My one ask is that before you make a negative judgement about whether our relationship is right or even up for public debate, please ask yourself what your motive is and be truthful with yourself.
As it stands, I don't intend to stop working with or dating the dashing Mr Waddington. It turns out he might just be a keeper.