Last week, I did something I try and avoid in media relations: I positioned a new employee with one of our clients for a live television interview.
Sara was game, which I appreciated. She was also knowledgeable, conversational and available despite the early hour, all of which I require. After 20 minutes of phone coaching, she knocked it out of the park – and even followed up with a thank-you email to the producer with a call-me-any-time-you-need-a-resource coda.
When I told Sara’s boss I’d scheduled a first interview less than two weeks after her new employee release had been sent out, Jennifer was delighted. “Jump in the pond,” she crowed.
“That’s the only way to get going. Jump in the pond!”
That oh-so-true phrase tickled me, as we would say in Tennessee. My team has been doing a far bit of “jumping in the pond” this summer, stretching and growing and pinch-hitting and collaborating and polishing their way to new skills.
We try and let each team member lead with his or her strengths. We often default to Brian on design issues, Katelyn on AP Style, Lisa on proofreading and Brianna on event planning. But client demands, team member departures and everyone’s summer vacations have pushed us out over our skis on more than a couple of occasions:
- Brian and Lisa both took on video editing when two clients wanted last-minute changes before projects were unveiled. While both confessed to being a little nervous, they confidently jumped in and were able to make the edits beautifully and finish the projects seamlessly.
- Katelyn stepped in late one Friday afternoon to handle an InDesign project that had dropped off our collective calendars. In just under two hours, she was able to dust off her graphic design skills and create a two-sided flier to meet a client’s end-of-the-day printing deadline.
- After a brief tutorial with Katelyn, Brianna took over the layout and design of a weekly electronic newsletter for a client. Bri now handles the project from start to finish, planning, writing, editing, designing and disseminating the content, then tracking analytics for the client.
It’s been absolutely wonderful to watch the teamwork, collaboration and enthusiasm of our band of communications professionals who have met all our deadlines and exceeded all client expectations despite a series of curveballs over the summer.
It’s very much in keeping with the Sabo PR philosophy of doing what needs to be done for our clients.
When I launched the practice nearly 16 years ago, it was with a much smaller suite of communication services – ones I was able to deliver personally. As our client base grew and needs expanded, so did our team and our service offerings. By necessity, we added social media, photography and videography, graphic design, website development, donor communications and even a little bit of advertising and logo development for good measure.
Back in my early days, the lines between PR, marketing and advertising were much brighter. If you needed a brochure, you went to a marketing firm. A press release? That was definitely PR. An ad campaign naturally fell to the expertise of an ad agency.
But along the way, the lines blurred. When we referred clients to marketing agencies for their brochures, they began to push back, saying “we want to work with you.” We had landed at the spot all professional service firms strive for: that of trusted provider.
So we took a deep breath and jumped in the pond – after managing expectations by letting clients know that while we’re happy to give X activity a try, it wasn’t something we had done before. I was always upfront about our skill level and would often discount our “learning curve.”
Of course, if something is way outside our wheelhouse, we’ll ’fess up and find an appropriate partner. While we might build a basic WordPress website from scratch for a small client, we’d look to partner for larger projects, providing the words and images and consulting on site architecture but leaving the web development and coding to the pros.
Jumping in the pond encourages growth, personally and professionally. It not only keeps things interesting, it challenges us. And the satisfaction earned from the successful completion of a jump-in-the-pond project? Sweeter than the results of just about anything else on your regular to-do list.