What Can The Boy Scouts of America Teach a PR Professional?

I was a Boy Scout as a kid.  And if you’re wondering, yes, I can still rattle off the Boy Scout Law quicker than a striped lizard on hot asphalt.  In addition to the multitude of moral, ethical, social, academic and cognitive skills that my experience as a Scout taught me, the most tangible life lesson I walked away with from that experience was also the Boy Scouts of America motto – to always “be prepared.”  This simple mantra transcends the notion that we should always be ready for an emergency by keeping a flashlight, food, battery-powered radio and other items on hand, or know how to build an outdoor shelter in cases of disaster.  Like the time I was on a camping trip and had to administer first aid to a fellow Scout who fell and broke his arm and badly cut his head during off trail hiking.  I was scared, but I was prepared.  The Boy Scouts instill comprehensive standards for youth that carry forward and prepare them for their adult lives, helping to improve relationships, work and family lives and the values by which we live.

The inspiration for this post came from a curious phone call I received last week that demonstrated stark unpreparedness. It made me realize that despite all of the articles, blog posts, white papers, e-books, webinars and other sources that drill preparedness into our everyday consciousness, the message has clearly not fully resonated with some.  Case in point: I recently switched press release distribution services to one that I felt was more affordable, yet provided me with equitable SEO exposure.  I received a call from another distribution service debuting a new service specifically targeted at businesses seeking a low cost, simple and efficient distribution platform to promote easily-shareable news across social networks … something already provided by the service I’m using.

When the salesperson was finished extolling their virtues – which, incidentally, were no different than what I was already receiving – I was quoted a price that was about $100 more than I was paying per release. So, of course, I pointed this out. There was uncomfortable silence and then an acknowledgement that I was correct and they were sorry to have bothered me.

Now, we all receive non-solicited sales calls from time to time. Speaking as a former salesperson who fully knows the difficulty of getting 100 “no’s” to every “yes,” I fully understand how the cold-calling grind can be taxing on motivation and pride. However, despite the obstacles that are thrown at every salesperson, it is common knowledge that those who are most successful in their profession –whether it be in sales, marketing or myriad other jobs – are those who vigorously prepare. The same holds true for PR pros! We hear time and time again to carefully research journalists and bloggers that we pitch … to learn their beat and familiarize ourselves with their personality and style in order to carefully tailor a pitch in alignment with their objectives.  And, we all know how crucial it is to get to know a target audience by learning where they hang out, participate in conversations with them and gauge their responses to content or ideas that you publish. But do we all do this?  It is a challenge to find the time to do so with our busy lives, but it’s also crucial to set aside a chunk of every day to research, explore, interact and measure.

Be prepared to swiftly respond when demand shifts, news breaks or conditions change.  Be prepared in times of crisis, and adopt a proactive mentality by administering first aid as soon as crisis hits instead of waiting until it spirals out of control.  In modern PR culture, as well all know, the winners are those who can demonstrate a nimble approach in real time.

Please don’t look at this as just another post to point out the tools and mindset necessary to develop a thorough and prepared approach to successful public relations. Try to think of this more as a reminder that despite all of the resources available at our fingertips to mold us into the most prepared professionals in any industry, it can be easy to lose sight of the fact that if a journalist, media outlet, blogger or some other pitch recipient boils down their choices to two alternatives on what story they will cover, the best prepared will shine through like a beacon in the fog.  Be prepared.

How has being prepared helped you as a PR pro?

John Trader is a Public Relations and Social Media Specialist with M2SYS Technology, a recognized industry leader in biometric identity management technology.  Follow John on Twitter @John_Trader1