Last Friday, my team and I celebrated the 14th anniversary of Sabo PR in quintessential Grand Rapids fashion – with Cottage burgers, beers and conversation.
The veteran reporters at the table regaled the younger members of the team with tales of the good ol’ days of print journalism – shouts of “copy boy!” in the newsroom, fistfights and two-martini lunches, gone now in the wake of new technology and changing sensibilities. Gone, too, is the reporting that roguish stew produced – from the hard-hitting stories that changed the way community and corporate leaders behaved to the heart-felt columns that made you reach for the Kleenex™.
A sobering moment, for me, that was briskly swept aside by the next story, more laughter, new memories.
Journalism was certainly in a different space when I set out my shingle on 01/02/03 – and that meant public relations was, too. Over the past 14 years, the profession I once called mine has gone through seismic changes that have fundamentally recast it. Those changes have rippled through to the profession where I now make my living, since journalism and PR are, for better or worse, inexorably entwined.
Some things have not changed, though. As I reflect on the last 14 years, some truths remain in the practice of my craft:
- Be prepared – and make sure your clients are, too.
- When facing a choice, always take the high road.
- Only accept clients you feel absolutely comfortable putting your name alongside.
- Support those clients with everything you’ve got.
- Support your team with everything you’ve got – and then some.
- Require all resources you put before the media to be knowledgeable – and to speak plain English.
- Require all job applicants to take an on-the-spot writing test.
- Even if you’ve proofed something a dozen times, read it once more for good measure before hitting send.
- Never stretch the truth to the point where it breaks. Never, ever lie. And never feel you need to open the kimono completely, even if everyone is shouting for you to do so.
- In any crisis, the media spotlight will dim – but the gaze of your employees, shareholders, donors, volunteers and community partners will linger long.
- Deadlines are not suggestions, particularly where the media are involved.
- Keep your word.
- Own up to your mistakes – and then fix them.
- Show up on time and don’t steal.