Who hasn’t worked with someone they disliked? I’m sure, many of us have worked with people who made us uncomfortable or whose values completely clashed with ours.
Sitting across difficult clients or hotheaded superiors can be psychologically taxing — especially if you’re a PR pro. It can be hard for people to distinguish between personable & pushover — doubly so when you make it a point to give your critical feedback in a calm, pleasant way!
At times, the road of least resistance can be far, far more appealing. Upholding what is moral and ethical while your boss fumes in the boardroom? Forget it.
After all, there’s only so much feedback you can give — and besides, if he doesn’t want to listen (to advice he paid for!) — it’s his funeral, right?
It’s easy to grin and bear it. It’s easy to let a difficult client continue a foolhardy strategy. It’s easy but it’s not right.
As communications professionals serving the public through our work with media, we have to accept that we’re not doing anyone favors if we take the easy road. It’s a disservice even to ourselves.
My remedy for such situations is simple:
- Treat it like a classic communications challenge. Dispense your advice 3 different ways: appeal to logic & facts, appeal to emotion, and most of all — highlight why it is advantageous for the client to follow your advice.
- Let them decide and take a step back. One of two things will happen. Either client will see your way and follow your suggested course of action or she won’t! (Sometimes, I like taking a walk after I’ve expended all my energy in convincing my boss to follow a certain course of action. Mind you, I don’t walk out. I just take a walk after the meeting has adjourned…)
- Respect their position. Try your hardest to realign your course of action with your superior’s chosen strategy. Forget your misgivings & hope that they are right. And if it turns out that they are not, forgive them.
“What rubbish,” you might tell yourself after going through the trouble of reading through my 3-point remedy. And that is OK.
You see, doing what is right isn’t about being right. It’s not about oneupmanship.
Save yourself from the psychological stress of seeing your well-laid plans fall apart. Salvage your relationship with your work colleagues. Hold fast to the essential ‘invisibles’: integrity, ethics, and forgiveness.
I’ve been working on the client side of PR now for over 2 years. While I’m glad I moved to “the other side” — there are days when I miss the dynamic agency environment.
So, to quell my ‘homesickness’ (and let’s face it: for many PR pros, the agency can be home…14h workdays notwithstanding!) here are the top 3 things I missed from my agency time:
I miss the thrill of pitching.
Fresh ideas. New people. If you weren’t keen on pitching stories and dreaming up new executions; you had no place in a PR agency. The fast-paced (and sometimes cutthroat) environment was challenging.
Challenging and rewarding.
You knew when you won the pitch, you knew when you lost the client. Plus, there’s nothing that can keep you on your toes more than meeting a roomful of strangers almost every week. When you communicate with unknown quantities, there is no choice but to be as clear as possible.
There was little constraint on the amount of “dream time” you could invest in a project…provided that you could deliver & meet your deadlines.
I never thought I’d say this but I miss the ironclad deadlines of the PR agency. We usually dealt with finished products. This means, I never had to worry about manufacturing issues & other issues brands faced internally. There was no mental waiting time between a product idea & a launch — what landed on my desk was ready to be hyped up.
Speaking of hyping products up — if there’s one thing agencies know how to do — it’s going back to the drawing board when things don’t go as planned. Agile creative teams know when it’s time to let go of an idea they’ve developed to service their client (and the public!) better.
So there. It’s out of my system. Back to working for the
dark client side. 🙂
Public relations is mostly unglamorous. It’s scouring through miles of spreadsheets to finish reports, it’s reading uninspired comments about your brand on blogs, it’s a mastery of screencaps — and most of all: it’s meeting deadline after deadline.
There’s no such thing as working with the news cycle. You’re just either in it or out of it.
Sometimes, the main difficulty of working in PR is the very thing you need to be good at it — people reading. When you’re trained to read people & decipher emails, you know when:
- Client is lying & hoping you don’t notice (meaning: he doesn’t trust himself).
- Client is only giving you half the story (meaning: she doesn’t trust you).
- Client is just taking on an agency because everyone else has (meaning: no communications objectives).
Of course, while you seethe, you just keep smiling. They don’t know you know.