4 Ways PR is Like a Break-in

I woke up to my parents’ frantic voices, breaking glass and the sound of an intruder’s footsteps coming from downstairs. It was 3:00 a.m. on a Monday morning and the absolute last way I thought I would begin my week.

Even as I heard my dad yell, “Get out!” and my mom warned, “Don’t you dare go downstairs,” it was still hard to comprehend what was happening in my home. I finally put it together when my mom said the land line didn’t work and we needed to call 911. As a millennial who sleeps with her phone in hand, that I could understand and take action.

My hands shook as I dialed ‘9’ and just one ‘1’ before ‘Emergency Call’ came across my phone’s screen. Within minutes, the police were in my driveway.

As the officers canvassed our area and a technician dusted for fingerprints in my dining room, my heartbeat returned to a normal pace and my thoughts led me to the positives of the situation. Broken windows can be fixed. A stolen laptop is always replaceable. As I tried to comprehend what had just happened, I easily connected to the knowledge I gain in my day-to-day experience with public relations. Believe it or not, ‘PR is like a break-in.’

Immediate response: Within minutes, there were squad cars and unmarked police cars on our street. They moved through our house and surrounding area to ensure it was safe. Penn State taught us waiting is not the answer. If you have potentially harmful information, share it. When action should be taken (especially quickly), do so.

Be thorough: When the police technician arrived at my house, I could tell the officer was all business. He inspected each piece of broken glass and all areas of potential forced entry. Unfortunately, the burglar must have worn gloves because no print was found. In public relations, from the planning stage through media outreach and until the program recap is finalized, our mission is to remain organized and produce quality work. We follow editors’ coverage to focus on relevant pitches on behalf of our clients. We research vendors for campaign needs and editors for media events, selecting the most appropriate outlets.

Open your eyes. My poor, 15 year-old dog, Tequila, was snoozing away. Due to his age and waning senses, we think the pup was dreaming through the burglary. Teqs eventually made his way upstairs, but his reaction begs the question, what have you let happen directly in front of you? Was it going along with a PR plan you did not morally agree with? Or have you participated in a conversation demeaning to an individual or group of people?

Assess the positives: The only item missing is a replaceable laptop. No one was hurt. The bedrooms are located on the second floor. No one bumped into the intruder. And as with this burglary, it’s important to see through the negativity that follows public relations. Not every campaign is going to be a homerun. What key learnings did you secure from the program and how can you utilize those in the future? Critics will always question what we do. Demonstrate key results of the campaign and the good it created.

Have you experienced a similar situation? How did you work through the nightmare?

Stephanie Florence is a Chicago based public relations professional passionate about connecting people through social media and media relations. Find her sharing thoughts at @StephanieFlo covering PR, relationships and living the life of a student always.

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