Jan 20

What a Year in PR has Taught Me

 

I did not originally intend to go into public relations. As a college student, I envisioned myself a modern Peggy Olsen, working as a copywriter for some leading advertising agency and spending my days coining clever word combinations for billion-dollar brands.

None of the above is true, with the exception of subscribing to agency life, and I am quite pleased it isn’t.

Working at SPR for over a year now, I’ve been able to delve into various projects for clients with ranging communications needs — practicing and enhancing important skills for real, impactful deliverables every day. Never am I stuck doing one task over and over again, nor am I limited to collaborating with only one type of client or industry.

One of my favorite aspects is that we’re in the business of helping people share how amazing they are — and I can say that truthfully because we have excellent clients — as well as how to handle less than ideal situations.

But that alone is too simple a description. With all the different personalities and the passion each client brings to the table, every opportunity offers unique human perspective and interaction — something I surely would have missed elsewhere so early in my career.

So in my reflection on this past year and some change, there are a few intertwined key takeaways from the public relations field I’d like to share that I believe many professionals can relate to or incorporate in their own line of work.

 

People come first

I’ve mentioned this bit before, but I don’t think it can be stressed enough. When you’re trying to communicate ideas, news etc., it’s crucial to think about who your message is directly affecting. For example, when we help an organization push out important information, we begin by informing staff and board members, followed by other stakeholders, community partners and then the media. Start with those closest to you, those most invested in your company, and work your way out. Team members should never learn about news on the organization they work for from the media.

 

Set yourself up for success

I mean this not only by checking your inbox at the end of the day and spending time preparing for each meeting, but also thinking about how you would react to your company if X, Y or Z happened — especially when your hair is on fire and you’re not sure what to do. In 2019, I worked on multiple crisis plans, all detailing how to react in case of inclement weather, death, sexual assault, embezzlement, et cetera, et cetera. It’s difficult to think about these things — of course you don’t want anything unfortunate to happen to your organization — but if it were to happen, you’d want to know what to do and say to protect your team members and business.

 

You can’t always control situations, but you can control how you respond to them

Over the new year, Mary Ann shared an article detailing the top five PR fails of 2019 with the team. Based on these poorly-executed responses and what I’ve learned during my time with SPR, it’s always best practice to promptly acknowledge and apologize if you’ve messed up. This is even outlined in our social contract. It’s the right and honest thing to do and the general public will respect you and your company more by doing so rather than hiding in the bushes or outright lying. You may be subject to some social media scrutiny, but even that shall pass. After all, everyone messes up and we can’t predict when a staff member or situation goes rouge, but we can address it gracefully and move forward.

 

I’ve realized that many of the best and worst things that have happened to me were not planned, intended or expected — SPR included among the best. So I am happy I have accepted that I am not always in control and I look forward to where our clients take us next — with the intention of applying the above points as much as possible.


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