A PR pro’s adventures in becoming someone else on maternity leave

by | May 26, 2017 | Analysis, Public Relations

I’m running my own agency these days, but in the past I’ve worked for many companies as someone else. At Dun & Bradstreet, I was “Pam” and “Michelle.” At Dow Jones, I was “Maggie” and “Denise,” and at Hannover Fairs, I was “Sarah.” Most of these were maternity leave fill-in jobs, where I became someone else for about three months. Rather than parceling off bits of a full-time position to several people, these organizations brought me in as a full-time “temp.”

Pam was extremely organized and left me with a binder containing step-by-step instructions for temporarily filling her role as Director of Communications at Dun & Bradstreet (D&B). Whenever I had a question, I turned to her notes and the answer was usually there. My new D&B colleagues in the communications department were wonderful to work with, and when Michelle went out on her maternity leave the following year, I took over her job for three months.

When Denise became ill and went out on sick leave at Dow Jones, I took over for her as Public Relations Manager. She eventually left the company and I filled in for her replacement, Maggie, when she had her children. There were a lot of opportunities for me at Dow Jones. During my times as a fill-in and for years afterward, I worked for many different areas of the organization, including launching The Wall Street Journal Online (WSJ.com), booking guests on The Journal’s “Work and Family” radio show, and publicizing Factiva, Barron’s and Marketwatch.

Taking over for Sarah as Communications Director at Hannover Fairs meant handling the marketing and PR for international trade shows produced by Germany’s Deutsche Messe—one of the world’s largest event organizers. It was a valuable experience that expanded my skills to include global marketing. Unfortunately, it didn’t include any overseas trips to Hannover Fairs’ trade shows in Europe.

Although it sounds like it would be difficult to get up to speed quickly enough to take over someone else’s role in a matter of days, the women I filled in for made it easy. They returned to an office where their projects had moved forward instead of falling through the cracks. Years later, I’m still in touch with my Dow Jones, Dun & Bradstreet, and Hannover Fairs colleagues.

From my perspective, it was exciting and rewarding for me to temporarily be a part of these organizations. I increased my skills and I met a lot of fantastic people during my times as a “temp”. For now, you can call me “Beth.”

Note: New Jersey is only one of a handful of states to offer paid family leave.

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Beth Brody

Beth Brody is a public relations consultant based in Stockton, NJ.

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