Eight Ways For Communicators To Fight Tunnel Vision

Success in public relations often requires advocacy for a client’s message or mission. Yet to be a top PR strategist it helps to see all sides of an issue or equation and to anticipate questions and reactions from multiple audiences.

Diversity is also essential to creativity, but do you ever feel like you hear and read about the same old themes or ideas? It might be tunnel vision, or its cultural equivalent, “groupthink.” It’s any excessive desire for conformity that can result in suppression of different viewpoints, but it’s not just peer pressure that’s at work. The content we consume is increasingly fed, curated, reposted and aggregated according to our preferences and within our own social circles. That can lead to, at best, a monotonous media diet, and worse, a narrow perspective. How to stay connected while remaining open to different points of view?

Be critical of what you like. And “like.” As Robert Pagliarini points out, we’re naturally more open among those we trust, but we should hold the familiar to a high standard when it comes to speculative information or extreme opinions. There’s no safer place to offer a different point of view than among friends and peers.

Get off the beaten path. Try to read an intelligent blog post or column each day from a site or group you don’t agree with. For the same reasons, it’s helpful to add fresh friends/followers every day. List functions, hashtagging and other tools make it easy to wander beyond your professional turf without losing that focus.

Look for the up-and-comers. Some social media rockstars are truly original, or at least, they started out that way. But newer or less rcognized bloggers and columnists are nearly always more interesting, and they try harder.

Look for original content. Recycled news is fine for keeping up with news events, but it’s the lowest common denominator. Resources with original content, where the author’s professional or personal interests and resulting biases are obvious, are more useful in my view.

Play devil’s advocate. With your own assumptions, that is. It’s a useful exercise in which you nearly always learn something.

Solicit other opinions. Especially from those who are silent, whether on social media or in a physical meeting. The quiet ones usually have something to say, and it often goes against the grain.

Seek out diversity within a sector. I find it useful to read bylines from those who head up mega-agencies as well as solo practitioners. Everyone has something distinct to add to the conversation.

Listen.  I have strong opinions about gun regulation, to say the least. In the wake of yet another senseless shooting, I engaged on Twitter with someone who has a different view. But because we took the time to engage respectfully, we found we had each experienced the shortcomings of our mental health system when trying to provide for a family member. Yes, even with a few 140-character tweets, common ground is possible. No minds were changed, but I think we both learned something. I know I did.

What PR Pros Can Learn From The Hospitality Industry

I am fresh off a vacation and couldn’t help but notice some things the hospitality industry does well – things that PR agencies and other professional services firms can adapt for providing superior client service (clients, listen up too!)

Give a client something for nothing. Well, not nothing, of course. But the way the travel industry showers you with free cocktails and gourmet sampling opportunities is a good model for providing clients with an unanticipated extra once in a while. It’s a way to let them know that you value the relationship enough to go above and beyond.

Provide proactive customer service. Take a page from the hospitality industry and the late NYC Mayor Koch and solicit feedback on the job you’re doing as you’re doing it. Before it ever reaches the equivalent  of a bad Yelp or TripAdvisor posting, you can root out any negatives proactively and work to solve ASAP.

Teach your clients something they don’t know. OK, not everyone wants to learn to line dance or fold a cutesy towel animal, but it’s offered, and it’s thoughtful. Perhaps you can take your client through some social media lessons or provide a primer on the new media landscape. Don’t give away all your trade secrets, but share in a way that benefits the relationship.

Make it easy to work together.  You know how much a traveler appreciates the words, “no problem”? You want to be that PR agency! Within reason, of course, handle all requests with a positive attitude and make problems go away, or, to the greatest of your ability, not happen at all.

Always be thinking about the future. Savvy travel marketers are selling you your next trip before you’ve finished your current one. Smart PR pros should do the same by thinking of ways to extend the existing relationship and build on current accomplishments.