Before You Ridicule Each Other, Think of Helping Others

I should probably start this post by noting that I’m an eternal optimist . . . I look at the bright side of practically everything, so if that isn’t your style, you may just want to skip this post. OK, that’s out of the way, here we go!
Maybe it’s the “dog days” of summer still, or the fact that we’re still mired in a major recession that has everyone in a tizzy and seemingly at each other’s throats in the PR business when almost every minor situation that arises. Accidentally blast out an e-mail to thousands of people and forget to use the very helpful—but often misused—BCC function? Boom! You’re facing at least a week of full-on ridicule from your own brethren.  For many of us, it can get to be a bit too much sometimes.
I know for myself, I didn’t get into this business to ridicule colleagues. I actually want to see others in this business succeed, so when a big—or little—slipup happens, I usually try to give my quick two cents, offer some advice on how to move on, and generally stay out of the situation. By no means am I perfect, and I will be the first to admit that I am still eagerly learning as much as I can about PR (I come from a sport management background), so to me, I’d rather focus on the positives.
And that’s really the point of this whole post: We—the collective whole of the PR industry—have SO much good to offer, both to clients and our employers, that it really does not make a lot of sense, nor help at all, to constantly ridicule each other’s mistakes. And we’re awful about this. There is a sector of this business that almost seems to find amusement in ridiculing each other. How exactly that is helping to advance our business is beyond me.
It’s also a whole hell of a lot of wasted time and energy, and in a recession, can we really afford to waste either?
For me, I got into this business because I love to help others. Now working on the client side after five years working in college athletic media relations, my great thrill and enjoyment is finding a way to help the overall business efforts of my clients. Even if it is as simple as helping a client reach 10 more influential customers one week, then I’m ecstatic because I have helped someone beyond just myself.
Folks, we work in a service industry and, therefore, our top priority (at least in my opinion) should be focused on how we can help others. If you’re on the agency side, it’s how can you help your clients’ business. If you’re an internal PR person, it’s how can you help your organization best reach its customers and target audiences, and, more so now through social media, how can you drive customer engagement efforts. In short, think about how much good we can do for others when we truly focus our energies on doing just that, rather than constantly looking for the next 140-character zinger to tweet about.
So now I ask you: Why did you get into PR? What’s your favorite part of the business? What has you jazzed and excited to work every day?

I should probably start this post by noting that I’m an eternal optimist . . . I look at the bright side of practically everything, so if that isn’t your style, you may just want to skip this post. OK, that’s out of the way, here we go!PBJ

Maybe it’s the “dog days” of summer still, or the fact that we’re still mired in a major recession that has everyone in a tizzy and seemingly at each other’s throats in the PR business when almost every minor situation that arises. Accidentally blast out an e-mail to thousands of people and forget to use the very helpful—but often misused—BCC function? Boom! You’re facing at least a week of full-on ridicule from your own brethren.  For many of us, it can get to be a bit too much sometimes.

I know for myself, I didn’t get into this business to ridicule colleagues. I actually want to see others in this business succeed, so when a big—or little—slipup happens, I usually try to give my quick two cents, offer some advice on how to move on, and generally stay out of the situation. By no means am I perfect, and I will be the first to admit that I am still eagerly learning as much as I can about PR (I come from a sport management background), so to me, I’d rather focus on the positives.

And that’s really the point of this whole post: We—the collective whole of the PR industry—have SO much good to offer, both to clients and our employers, that it really does not make a lot of sense, nor help at all, to constantly ridicule each other’s mistakes. And we’re awful about this. There is a sector of this business that almost seems to find amusement in ridiculing each other. How exactly that is helping to advance our business is beyond me.

It’s also a whole hell of a lot of wasted time and energy, and in a recession, can we really afford to waste either?

For me, I got into this business because I love to help others. Now working on the client side after five years working in college athletic media relations, my great thrill and enjoyment is finding a way to help the overall business efforts of my clients. Even if it is as simple as helping a client reach 10 more influential customers one week, then I’m ecstatic because I have helped someone beyond just myself.

Folks, we work in a service industry and, therefore, our top priority (at least in my opinion) should be focused on how we can help others. If you’re on the agency side, it’s how can you help your clients’ business. If you’re an internal PR person, it’s how can you help your organization best reach its customers and target audiences, and, more so now through social media, how can you drive customer engagement efforts. In short, think about how much good we can do for others when we truly focus our energies on doing just that, rather than constantly looking for the next 140-character zinger to tweet about.

So now I ask you: Why did you get into PR? What’s your favorite part of the business? What has you jazzed and excited to work every day?

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  • Great post Keith. I know I'm bothered when people go negative (http://cogcomm.com/3) :).

    In all seriousness, a great post — it was actually proposed a long time ago, when PRBC was at the planning stages (last week) that there be a PR Successes column and I can think of nothing else that would boost the morale and image of our entire profession while demonstrating proper technique to all of us.

  • Thanks, Keith. You make a great point. As someone who's spent [almost] an entire career in different aspects of the service industry, helping people and businesses succeed is the best part of the job. It is helpful to recognize snafus and to learn from them – but completely useless to just ridicule those who make mistakes simply for the sake of berating them and/or for the “shock value” derived from doing so in 140. Cog's idea of a successes column in great – i'd add that we include a “how to learn from these mistakes” column when we see major callouts without much “what to learn from this” follow-up.

  • Marie Baker

    Fantastic post, Keith! I also find it to be discouraging when there much focus on the negative, especially for those just starting out in the field. I will fully admit that I am sure glad these sites were not around when I first started. I would really hate to see some of my very first pitches to the media. I think publicists get better with time- time enables them to learn from their mistakes, craft their art of pitching, build relationships, etc.

    My first introduction to PR was “Hey, you are now our publicist. Here's the media list and now go get some press.” There was really nothing more than that and I had to figure it out, making plenty of mistakes on the way.

    This post is a great reminder for all of us of why we are in PR in the first place. It's exciting, it's challenging, and we should start supporting rather than slamming each other.

  • Keith, I so agree! Being snarky with each other is unkind, unproductive, and doesn't help to boost the image of PR. I am in marketing and PR because I have a passion for shaping and communicating messages that change behavior. I too get a thrill from creating and implementing a strategy that helps build business revenue and reputation, one campaign at a time.

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  • Thanks for the comment, Sherri. I'm definitely game for a “how do we learn from this” column, especially with many who read/post on this blog being of the younger professional persuasion, or like you and me, still somewhat new to the PR field. The more we can learn from each other – both in terms of mistakes and how to correct/move past them, the better we will all be in the long run.

    Keith

  • I went into PR thinking I was going to graduate and become J-Lo's publicist…Becuase that was what I was told would happen when I graduated…Yep

  • Thanks for the comments, Gail. I don't necessarily always have a problem with snarkyness, as long as it's followed by some constructive advice and tips on how to move forward, as well as at least a hint of empathy. We've all been there before: when you work in a service industry, it's bound to happen that you will upset someone. So rather than just blasting your fellow colleagues for all of their transgressions, wouldn't it make more sense/add more value to the conversation and our industry if we just think of some really helpful ideas and solutions to help that person move forward?

  • Paxtman

    I think I got into it because I love dealing with the media. I really enjoy journalism, but never had the patience to spend years at a small-town paper on the police beat. As a result, I've focused mostly in media relations and have found that I love it.

  • Why PR? Why not? In H.S. I quickly learned my passion for researching/writing and of course meeting new people. I think what a lot of people forget about today is the research aspect of PR. Or what I like to call “listening”. This is why I went into PR. I enjoy learning about my client and not just about their product or service but how the client got into the business. Why does the client thing their audience should know about their service/product and what are its benefits?

    I got into PR because I enjoy pretending like I know what my day will look like, when in actuality we all know that that will never be a possibility. It's always changing. Something will absolutely come up and we will have to prioritize what needs to be done and what will have to wait.

    However, I admit that first time I ever learned about PR was when I visited my father, who at the time worked for Levi's Strauss, on a “bring your kid to work day”. I met some really glamorous people and thought this is where I HAD to be. About 8 years later I interned for Levi's and although the people were wonderful and I learned a lot, I also learned fashion is NOT for me but that PR is.

    We should remember that just because one sector of PR may not be right for us, to always try another. PR is a profession that most industries can use. We just have to find our niche.

  • I went into PR not knowing that I was going into PR. My Life Path had me all set to become a fabulous editor of books. I was going to tell David Sedaris where to end his next collection of short stories; I was going to nudge Chuck Palachusuwdhwdeqdhdnick into writing a better novel than Fight Club.

    In case you didn't get the memo: Didn't happen! It turned out I was a lousy book editor. I was just really excited about books, which doesn't actually help the editing process. But it does help the book publicity process.

    Yadda yadda yadda, I ended up representing authors and publishers. Just goes to show, I guess. You never know what you were meant to do until you do it.

  • I think I was meant to have my own talk show.

  • Very well said, Marie! Your last bit about the challenge and excitement of PR is exactly why I work in this business. Every single day for me presents a new challenge – and with that – vastly new opportunities that lead me to grow and evolve in ways I had not thought of before. Let's harness that power to evolve and let's do it together to help our industry grow and prosper in so many more positive ways than a few snarky tweets and blog posts could ever accomplish.

  • valeriesimon

    Keith, this is such a great question- your posts always give me reason to pause. Like TJ, my path to PR was not part of the master plan (law school). I realized however, what I really cared about was not arguing law, but sharing stories and perhaps in doing so help to influence the direction of the story. I am just as excited about the industry today as I was (let's just say 'lots of'” ) years ago. Why? Well after reading your post, it seems obvious. I am surrounded by positive energy. In the office folks like Gail Nelson teach me something new every day and keep me excited about the future. The enthusiasm of the friends I choose to follow on Twitter, or whose blogs (and books) I choose to read is contagious. I hope that everyone who reads your post takes it (as PRCog did) as a call to action and makes a personal commitment to focus their energy on the positive, and what they can do to be helpful. I promise you that I will!

    PS CT, yes, do need a talk show. Until then, how about a prbreakfastclub vlog? A CT morning show 😉

  • Valerie, thank you so much for the very kind words. It's great to see that you have – and continue to be – inspired by so many around you. Hopefully, we can all continue to inspire each other, and progress our business from here … I know I'm pretty jazzed up right now about where I'm going and where many of my colleagues are moving.

  • Great post, Keith! A few thoughts that came to mind:

    I agree with you that the best option when a fellow PR professional “screws up” is for us as peers to offer some insight and the best ways to remedy/move on, rather than tear to shreds. But on the other hand, I believe we have a level of reputation as PR pros that we’d like to uphold. A high standard we expect ourselves to meet. So when we see others aren’t hitting that standard, we panic and go into “protection mode” trying to keep our industry away from the negative spotlight. We shake our fingers scolding those who have taken a misstep so a) we look better and b) we try to save our industry’s face.

    So why did I get into PR? I like writing, I like persuasive positioning of stories and I like meeting people. What has me jazzed everyday? PR Breakfast Club!

  • valeriesimon

    Keith, this is such a great question- your posts always give me reason to pause. Like TJ, my path to PR was not part of the master plan (law school). I realized however, what I really cared about was not arguing law, but sharing stories and perhaps in doing so help to influence the direction of the story. I am just as excited about the industry today as I was (let's just say 'lots of'” ) years ago. Why? Well after reading your post, it seems obvious. I am surrounded by positive energy. In the office folks like Gail Nelson teach me something new every day and keep me excited about the future. The enthusiasm of the friends I choose to follow on Twitter, or whose blogs (and books) I choose to read is contagious. I hope that everyone who reads your post takes it (as PRCog did) as a call to action and makes a personal commitment to focus their energy on the positive, and what they can do to be helpful. I promise you that I will!

    PS CT, yes, do need a talk show. Until then, how about a prbreakfastclub vlog? A CT morning show 😉

  • keithtrivitt

    Valerie, thank you so much for the very kind words. It's great to see that you have – and continue to be – inspired by so many around you. Hopefully, we can all continue to inspire each other, and progress our business from here … I know I'm pretty jazzed up right now about where I'm going and where many of my colleagues are moving.

  • Great post, Keith! A few thoughts that came to mind:

    I agree with you that the best option when a fellow PR professional “screws up” is for us as peers to offer some insight and the best ways to remedy/move on, rather than tear to shreds. But on the other hand, I believe we have a level of reputation as PR pros that we’d like to uphold. A high standard we expect ourselves to meet. So when we see others aren’t hitting that standard, we panic and go into “protection mode” trying to keep our industry away from the negative spotlight. We shake our fingers scolding those who have taken a misstep so a) we look better and b) we try to save our industry’s face.

    So why did I get into PR? I like writing, I like persuasive positioning of stories and I like meeting people. What has me jazzed everyday? PR Breakfast Club!