In the world of Public Relations it is customary that we will deal with various crises, difficult personalities, last minute changes, and of course the unexpected that we’ve come to expect.
What differentiates an inexperienced PR professional from an experienced one is his/her ability not just to handle these situations, but to do so with absolute grace. I call this the Duck Mechanism.
Imagine going to a nearby pond, surrounded by luscious green, and in it you see a flock of swimming ducks. At first glance, they seem to glide effortlessly on the water, impervious to any currents that they must transcend. But if you look a little closer, you put those imaginary goggles on and you look under water, you will see that they are not as cool as they seem. In fact they are paddling like heck.
This is how we PR professionals need to be. Of course, it is easier said than done.
We’ve all been through those difficult times: When it’s half an hour before a press conference and no media has arrived; or when the celebrity spokesperson has a fit about their make-up/hair and decide they don’t want to do the interview anymore; or when the reporter arrives completely unprepared and doesn’t know what to ask your client. Ahh, so many memories! So how do you handle this? How do you make sure that you get through this without your client running to put out an RFP for a different agency? Here are a few tips:
- Put on your PR Smile – You know what I’m talking about. That ear-to-ear plastered smile that somehow all PR people are capable of doing, regardless of how we feel underneath. Yes, you need to put it on your face – right now. Never let them see you sweat!
- Bring out the soothing voice – Your client doesn’t want to hear the problems, so don’t take this as an opportunity to vent with them no matter how good a friendship you may think you have. What they want to hear is that everything is going to be alright, because they have their own bosses to answer to. So in the face of all adversity, put your soothing voice on, and let them know that it will be handled, and it will be great.
- Take Creative Measures – Remember that at the end of the day P.R. is a creative field, and you wouldn’t be successful without that creativity, so put it to good use. Be fast on your feet, and focus on turning the negative into a positive. It’s about to rain on your presentation, bring out those large umbrellas! No one asking questions at your press conference, text message your friend reporter with a sample question! Camera shows up without the reporter, grab the microphone and give them the story they need! Camera light not working, take out your iPhone light!
- Do whatever it takes –You were hired to do a job. In P.R. one thing you can count on is that you can be the most organized planner, the most meticulous brain, and yet still be hit with the unexpected. Therefore, you have to be flexible. Throw out your minute-to-minute perfectly timed agenda, and remember that what matters is the end result. So what if you have to take a left turn. As long as you get to the end of the race, and achieve what you came to achieve, that’s all that matters. And that’s what a client will always focus on. They won’t care if things didn’t run exactly the way they were supposed to, as long as they can see the ROI.
To summarize, don’t let the P.R. undercurrent drag you under. Paddle on my dear duckies, paddle on!