Have a Little Patience, My Friends

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Bored Man I had a great discussion the other day with my friend, Arik Hanson, whom many of you that frequently read this blog may know. Arik recently started his own PR/social media consultancy, and from seemingly every indication, his business is thriving.

I pointed this out to Arik, noting how in control he seems to be of everything. Arik then made a comment back that I frankly wasn’t expecting, but it completely makes sense, and shows that he is absolutely on the right track toward a very long and successful business; Arik told me: “Things are going well now, but I never want to get ahead of myself. I’m trying to keep everything under control.”

Talk about foresight and the ability to grasp the “here today, gone tomorrow” nature of any small business.

All this got me thinking about a single word that has been rattling around in my head a lot lately: PATIENCE. As in, don’t try to take on the world just yet, Keith. There’s plenty of time to do it all. Arik seems to know this very well, and I have massive respect for him because of that. It’s a difficult concept to embrace, especially when you are on your own.

Working in a service industry that moves faster than almost any of us can think, we become trained to be a little impatient; to want something yesterday when it was promised to be delivered today. But life doesn’t always work that way. The proverbial monkey wrench often gets thrown into initiatives in this business, and inevitably, there are going to be clients and others that you encounter that are either major roadblocks toward your team’s success, or drag their feet so much with seemingly every decision that you and your team get stuck in a quagmire of minutiae, never able to achieve any discernable goals.

In just a few years working in PR, I’ve experienced all of these “fun” situations … and many, many more. Yet what I’m finding that what works best for me is not to try to bullheaded in these situations, puff out my chest and say “Do it my way, or else!” but to actually more or less roll with things. Be patient, yet incredibly persistent.

Sometimes, no matter how much we prepare and anticipate for anything to happen, the unexpected WILL happen. That reporter who promised you that fantastic, influential placement for a tough client would be published tomorrow, well, they have bosses, too, just like you do, and sometimes, those persnickety editors can get in the way of things and push something back. Please, for the benefit of all of us in this business, don’t yell at that reporter. Nine times out of 10, it’s not their fault something got delayed or maybe even cancelled.

I have found that things have a way of turning out for the best when you continue to be persistent and persevere even when the pressure is at the max, but the whole time, you are cognizant of the fact that not every great accomplishment will get done today, tomorrow or even next month. Things tend to blow up (in a bad way) when you try to push well beyond the comfort level of all parties involved.

Be calm. Be patient. Just nod your head and say “uh-huh” to the blowhards and a**holes, and then find a way to make big things happen that do not directly involve them. Then, at the end of the day, when people are passing around praise for the good work you did, and the blowhard tries to steal your thunder, keep reality in mind. Just nod your head, smile and remain patient. People will notice who has done the best work. It just may take a bit of time.

It’s been a difficult year for all of us, and we have all been tested in ways some never thought possible. Learning to be patient—very patient, sometims, has been my major professional test. What has been yours?

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  • http://amymengel.com amymengel

    Patience is a virtue I certainly wish I had more of. What can be even more tricky about patience is trying to instill it in clients. Many don't understand that the process of pitching and gaining coverage can take weeks or months, even in today's fast-paced media culture. From an initial e-mail to a reporter to the follow-up, interviews, back-and-forth, and then finally placement can take a very long time. It's important (and difficult) to set expectations with clients so they understand things don't happen automatically or instantaneously.

  • keithtrivitt

    Amy – Excellent point regarding taking the value of patience that we all must learn as PR pros and trying to instill that value into our work with clients. You're right – It's an incredibly difficult thing to do: to get clients to understand that our outreach efforts, brand building and advocacy work on their behalf doesn't happen overnight. And it never will. I don't care how many great social media networks and ideas come along the line, even a tweet about your client's new product from the most influential online personality within their industry still will take a great deal of initial outreach and relationship-building efforts on your end.

    And who knows. That work could take two days, or two months or even a year! The bottom line of what I'm starting to realize is that while almost everything in this business is trying to move 1,000 miles a minute, and pressure can be immense to produce those immediate results and get things done NOW, it still all comes down to your persistence to make your efforts on behalf of your organization or your clients successful over the LONG HAUL.

  • jeffespo

    What is this patience you speak of Keith?

    I wish I had more patience and work hard on trying to get better at it, but I love the post and think that the scenario that Arik portrays is an example that can be learned from.

  • keithtrivitt

    Jeff – Thanks for the note. I'm right there with ya: It's great to say I'll be more patient and write it in a post and implore others to do so, but not always the easiest to accomplish in reality. Though, like I told Amy above, I'm finding that just by thinking of the concept of “patience” more often, I'm able to remain more calm and have a clearer head about things.

    And you're absolutely right that we can all learn from Arik's incredibly wise comments. To hear him say that he's taking things in stride even while from all indications, his business is booming, was really intriguing to hear, and absolutely put things in perspective for me. As great as we all may do in both our personal and professional lives, sometimes, we have to keep the big picture in mind and realize that it's a long road ahead for all of us.

  • http://dfolkens.wordpress.com/ Dave Folkens

    I think you're hitting on a great point Keith,
    Patience for a PR person is a tough viewpoint to maintain as we have to work with a sense of urgency nearly all the time. However, the other aspect we need to remember is that one of the most important assets you can ever have in this business is a strong reputation and that can only be built over time through good, committed work.

    While it's tempting to push so hard now for the next story, client, or promotion we just have to remember that one major mistake or burning bridges in the heat of the moment can damage the reputation that you need to be successful for the next 20 years. Arik is a great example of someone who is approaching the business well and he's smart to take a thoughtful and long-term look at how he's going to sustain a company.

    Good post and a great topic for discussion.

  • keithtrivitt

    Dave – You make a very smart point regarding reputation building in this business. Yes, everyone and everything around us are expecting us to move faster than we sometimes think is possible, but we have to keep in mind that all day, every day, our reputations are at stake, and in a people business where we develop numerous long-lasting relationships, our reputations mean everything.

    Thanks for providing that really strong point and for the comment!

  • http://blog.blisspr.com/ Kellie Sheehan

    You make an excellent point. Patience is hard to come by as the nature of our business moves faster and faster. I think another test many of us face reguarly in the PR biz is empathy. It's easy to jump to conclusions or get frustrated when someone who isn't in a media mindset every day doesn't “get it.” It can pay off in dividends if you really work at making an effort to understand where other people are coming from (whether it's clients, colleagues, customers or reporters) – and think about why they might be asking the questions or making the judgements you see/hear.

  • keithtrivitt

    Interesting point; re: empathy, and frankly, one I had not really thought of much when writing this post. But I really like what you have to say about that, and I think empathy, combined with patience would give us all a much more rounded personality when it comes to understand and working with others.

  • keithtrivitt

    Dave – You make a very smart point regarding reputation building in this business. Yes, everyone and everything around us are expecting us to move faster than we sometimes think is possible, but we have to keep in mind that all day, every day, our reputations are at stake, and in a people business where we develop numerous long-lasting relationships, our reputations mean everything.

    Thanks for providing that really strong point and for the comment!

  • http://blog.blisspr.com/ Kellie Sheehan

    You make an excellent point. Patience is hard to come by as the nature of our business moves faster and faster. I think another test many of us face reguarly in the PR biz is empathy. It's easy to jump to conclusions or get frustrated when someone who isn't in a media mindset every day doesn't “get it.” It can pay off in dividends if you really work at making an effort to understand where other people are coming from (whether it's clients, colleagues, customers or reporters) – and think about why they might be asking the questions or making the judgements you see/hear.

  • keithtrivitt

    Interesting point; re: empathy, and frankly, one I had not really thought of much when writing this post. But I really like what you have to say about that, and I think empathy, combined with patience would give us all a much more rounded personality when it comes to understand and working with others.