PR Lessons in Life

I received my PR training in the late 1980’s.  I was lucky to watch and work closely with a Vice President and a SR. Vice President at Padilla Speer Burdick & Beardsley (now Padilla Speer).   At the start of my career, I knew the importance of building a relationship.  These same principles are used today. However, back in the 80s, although the principles were the same, the tools and outreach were different.

At the time, my responsibilities were mostly focused on media relations.  I remember finding the right journalists in the Bacon’s books (matching journalists to client news and stories) and creating a targeted list.  I called every single media outlet on my list to make sure I had the proper person and the right information.  There was no room for error. One thing that I learned early on was that you could only make a first impression once.  You had to be prepared for a conversation with a journalist; to know about that person and to help them with their stories.  I always wanted to be considered a valuable resource and the journalists that I worked with knew that they could count on me to get them the information they needed.  Of course, the information was in the form of a faxed announcement, a hardcopy press release, or a black and white photograph with a caption typed on the back that fit nicely into a press kit.

These lessons early on taught me that in order to truly build a relationship you had to be prepared, on your toes at all times and ready to help.  When you made a promise, you followed up and delivered on that promise.  I learned that disappointing a member of the media had severe repercussions.  It meant that the client didn’t get the media coverage, the agency wouldn’t reach its campaign goals and the journalist may not choose to work with the PR person or team of professionals in the future.

Of course today, the pressures of being prepared and delivering on our promises are magnified 100 fold.  Not only are we still preparing and getting ready for interactions with the media on behalf of our clients, but we’re moving at a heightened speed to work with new influencers and the fast paced social media landscape.  Before you have a chance to make that first impression, it’s really important to listen and learn from the interactions between your influencers and their communities. You need to understand what really interests the blogger and his/her community and then join in the conversation by offering helpful information.  It’s important to position yourself as a resource, so you don’t offend the community and/or the blogger with a meaningless and self serving pitch or message that no one wants to hear.

What does this tell you?  These tenets of PR and relationship building go a long way in life.  When I think about family, friends, spouse, colleagues, peers, and the list goes on, I realize that the principles of PR work in all situations.  Any kind of relationship (or should I say mutually beneficial relationship) takes a deep understanding of that person, a strong commitment or personal investment, time to grow your bond and constant nurturing of the friendship.  If you met someone for the first time and you wanted to make a good impression, would you just talk about yourself?  No, you would listen and observe and then share information.  If you made a connection and said that you would contact that person at a later date, either with some important information that you promised to send, or to get together for dinner, would you not deliver the information on time or completely ignore that you were going to make future plans?  If they called you and asked you to call them back, would you make the call a week or two later?  Absolutely not!  If you conducted yourself in this manner would you expect your new acquaintance to want to get to know you and to build a strong relationship with you?

When I think about my PR training, my relationships with journalists and now my approach with new friends and influencers through social media, everything comes full circle.  How I react, respond and proactively approach any new friend is the same way that I conduct myself in all circles of my life.  These simple PR lessons can result in extremely valuable relationships.  What PR life lessons have you learned that you can share?