PR Agencies’ Faux Pas: Art Imitates Life?

Anyone at a New York PR firm has experienced those “you can’t make this stuff up” moments. Whether dealing with a touchy tech reporter or a mercurial consumer PR client, things happen. But how good are you at telling the difference between true-life PR disasters and those occurring only on TV? Answers to “art” or “life” are below.

1. Mid-interview, your celebrity spokesperson admits that she knows nothing about the product she’s endorsing or the underlying condition that it treats.

2. A spirits company tries to leverage Martin Luther King Day with a press release touting “Drinks MLK would be proud of.” Ugh.

3. A new client informs you that one of the reasons a competing agency was not awarded their business was because they referred to the [client] company by the wrong name throughout the presentation.

4. A crime victim with no media prep but valid testimony in support of a Congressional bill is put on “the hot seat” with a reporter and badgered to the point of speechlessness.

5. A corporate PR spokesperson tweets offensive and racially charged updates from her company Twitter account.

6. You represent a highly placed political leader who murders her husband and your team goes in to clean it up. Literally.

7. The CEO of a large media company unexpectedly fires an employee at a companywide meeting intended to boost staff morale.

1. Art.  Patty Lupone guest-starred on “Girls” and gave this funny interview to Hannah at her new Conde Nast publishing gig.
2. Life.  Hennessy Spirits was called on the carpet for this example of very poor PR judgment.
3. Life.  A cautionary tale for all!
4. Art.  “House of Cards”’ Machiavellian Claire Underwood submitted an unprepared supporter of her bill to a tough TV interview.
5. Life.  L’affaire du Justine Sacco, a sad footnote in PR history.
6. Art.  Scandal’s Olivia Pope and team – Oh, the drama!
7. Life.  This wasn’t an old episode of “The Office,” but rather a PR gaffe on the part of  AOL’s Tim Armstrong.

Want to know more about avoiding PR mistakes? Check out our tipsheet here.

A Father’s ROI

How my dad’s “investment” in me improved my PR skills

My dad spent years investing his time and wisdom in shaping my values, skills and “way in the world”. Now that we have celebrated his big day, I wanted to reflect on the great tips he’s given me by word and example, that have helped in my career at a New York PR firm.

“Get back in the ring”

Seems simple enough, but in PR, truer words were never spoken. We are constantly subjected to potential rejection – clients who don’t hire you; media that reject your pitch and you have to have the wherewithal to shake it off, re-group and start again. It helps to try to get feedback on what didn’t work to enable you to learn from it.

“Respect must be earned”

My dad always said, anyone can do something well once, but to earn respect and further yourself in a career like PR, you must consistently apply the same high standards to each aspect of the job and make people respect you. Keep notes of what works and doesn’t to help guide you.

“If you don’t know the answer, know where to find it”

No one is a walking encyclopedia, and there is no shame in saying “I’ll get back to you.” But there is shame if you don’t know all the myriad resources available to find an answer.  In the PR trade, this type of knowledge is like gold!

“Have a passion for what you do”

Find the elements of the job you truly love and let it be known! Your enthusiasm for what you do will be infectious and in a job such as public relations where “selling” is essential, your enthusiasm and passion will help spur the same in co-workers, clients and contacts. 

“Set the bar high”

In our office, we have weekly work goals, but I learned from my dad to set my own business and personal goals as well.  Once you commit them to paper (or screen) they become “real” and I find myself more inspired to achieve them.

All Work And No Play, In PR? No Way!

Want to know one of the secrets to improving your PR skills? Play! The right kind of play incorporated into your day can help relieve stress, heighten creativity and problem-solving skills as well as make you more comfortable in social situations.

Stuart Brown of the National Institute for Play has actually demonstrated the active presence of play in the accomplishments of the very successful and also identified negative consequences that inevitably accumulate in a play-deprived life.

Who wants to be play-deprived anyway? But what are the “right kinds of play” to help you be more successful in PR? Dr. Brown has identified several; here are some of the most relevant to those in the PR trade:

Storytelling When you come in to the office on Monday and regale your officemates with a wonderful weekend story, repeat the latest gossip from TMZ or just tell a really funny joke – you are storytelling. Good, focused, well-paced storytelling helps your presentation skills, whether you’re presenting to a new client prospect; conducting a national publicity campaign  or doing internal work.

Imaginative Play And you thought playing COD or the Sims had no intrinsic value! Role-playing games or even karaoke – any situation in which you are “acting” can help prepare you for many work scenarios, especially tough interactions or first-time experiences. Think about that the next time you are facing an enemy avatar.

Object Play You want to be a more innovative problem-solver? Solve some word or number problems. The more regularly you play word games like Scrabble, NPR’s weekly puzzle, or number games like KenKen or Sudoku, the more you are “exercising” your brain for the challenges facing a busy New York PR firm.

Social Play Do you get together for game night? OK, how about Beer Pong or darts at your favorite bar? Each of these social games helps you engage better with co-workers, clients, tough media contacts or anyone with whom improved social skills are an asset.

What is your favorite way to play?