Jul 16

Sure, Good Luck with That: PR Takeaways from the Painting Chronicles of a New Homeowner

After two weeks, loads of painter’s tape, patching, gallons of paint and primer, sore arms, neck cramps and finding paint specks on our skin, clothes and glasses even on our days off from house renovation projects, we are finally finished with painting the ceiling in our new home.

Who knew repainting an already white ceiling would be so difficult? Nonetheless, after many late nights, paint fumes and several trips to our local home improvement store, we did it. It took us a bit of trial and error to get to a point where our ceiling paint job was not patchy, but we finally did last weekend.

I was reflecting on our painting woes, and it’s hard not to compare lessons learned from our project “fail” to the PR best practices I know and love. Looking back, it’s clear I should have tapped into my PR brain before we started this painting journey!

Do your research

Lisa's fiancé in front of their new homeYou see, I’m a first-time homeowner. Anxious to make the house our home, we moved swiftly to grab our painting supplies. We had the vision in mind. Built from my growing Pinterest boards of transforming the quaint though definitely dated space to a brighter, cleaner and more modern aesthetic, we thought the first few steps would be simple enough.

We’d just do a light dusting, apply painters tape, prime the walls and roll on white paint. Boom! On to the next project.

Thinking it would be no big deal to paint an already white ceiling a brighter shade of white, we did very little research and consulting before we began.


Silly me. I know this from my communications background – research is crucial.

Taking the time to research a topic, organization or program can be one of the most important steps in creating what will be a successful project or campaign. You may be thrilled about an idea, but don’t rush to see that idea come to fruition without giving it some more thought.

Read up on the topic. Look at the stats. Consult with subject matter experts. It is worth the time it takes to set you up for success later on. Research gives you the opportunity to discover potential faults in your plan and arm yourself with best practices before attempting something and ending up with lackluster results.

Get the right advice

As part of your research, make sure you’re getting good advice.

We briefly asked around while shopping for our project supplies, but not enough. We both work full-time, and our responsibilities often spill beyond “office hours.” This means our home renovation projects happen on the weekends and late weekday nights.

Rushing to the home improvement store at 8:30 p.m. on a Monday night, the employee in the paint section was friendly enough, but quick with her responses to our questions. She was seemingly ready to go home, and we didn’t blame her.She threw out tips and suggestions to us in a blur.

After sharing some options, she had ended with “or you can wing it” and “it’s your house, you can do whatever you like,” “I guess that would be fine” and perhaps a little foreshadowing with “sure, good luck with that.”

Bless her heart for believing in us to successfully “wing it,” but she didn’t understand. We are total novices. We aren’t handy at all. We needed good advice.

Honest and helpful counsel can help you where your other methods of research may be lacking. Before you invest your time and money into something, consider reaching out for another set (or two) of eyes and ears on your plans.

From an agency standpoint, that’s what we’re here for — to take that time with our clients and provide valuable, honest counsel when needed.

Be careful with preparation

Lisa painting

There’s quite a bit of prep work involved before you even start painting. If you’ve patched the walls, you’ll need to sand

them. You’ll need to clean your walls so they’re free of dust particles, line the trim and door frames with painter’s tape, lay down drop cloths and set up all the supplies you need ahead of time.

It can be incredibly time consuming, but if you want clean lines and imperfection-free results, it must be done with care.

When I think about careful preparation in PR, I think of the information gathering and preliminary writing stages of a project – ensuring your facts are correct, your AP Style is up to snuff, you’ve spelled names correctly and so on.

With close attention paid to details, those first steps will ensure a smooth and quick process moving forward. Cut corners and you’ll end up with an embarrassing error, or in our case — paint in places we didn’t intend it to go and being forced to re-do it all … multiple times.

Be willing to switch gears

Two words: Murphy’s Law. If something can go wrong, it probably will.

We had the great idea of hosting a painting party. Our friends were kind enough to offer to help us paint all our walls and ceiling in one night. We gave a brief painting 101 pep talk because we had different levels of painting skills and enthusiasm in the room, but things got a little out of control.

With multiple people painting in different areas of a room at once and going in different directions, it quickly became difficult to tell what areas were painted and what were not.

It was so fun to have friends over in our new home. We were humbled by their eagerness to help, but we should have been more organized. It was the beginning of our patchy ceiling issues. We knew moving forward, we would need to take a different approach.

It’s important for us to know that despite our careful planning, preparing and proofing, we are human. Some things may not always turn out as expected, in which case you’ll need to be able to be open to embarking on Plan B (hopefully, you have one!).

Stay calm

Lisa painting

Again, try as we might, mistakes will be made from time to time.

Yes, the ceiling may still be patchy after yet another round of paint. Your volunteer edger may have painted wavy lines where your ceiling meets your walls. The tape may have pulled up the paint (exactly what it’s not supposed to do … you had one job!). But *deep breath* it’s going to be fine.

There’s no sense in letting yourself get frustrated. Stay calm and focus on how you’re going to approach your project next. With some time, persistence and perhaps some breathing exercises, you can succeed – in painting or in PR.

One thought on “Sure, Good Luck with That: PR Takeaways from the Painting Chronicles of a New Homeowner”

  1. Mary Helmic says:

    Thanks for sharing your story, Lisa! Great tips on getting good results in any number of settings.

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