All I Ever Really Need to Know (about PR and Crisis Communication) I Learned in Kindergarten
You’ll notice my blog posts have had a theme these days. The real-life lessons that apply to business are especially relevant to me as a working mom raising two school-aged boys. Sometimes they teach me more than I could ever teach them…
In honor of my son Jake, a recent kindergartener, I give my adaptation of the poem “All I Ever Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten” by Robert Fulghum and how it truly does apply to the PR business:
Share everything. This applies to continually reviewing and updating social media strategy with respect to both Brand PR and crisis communications clients. Directly engaging with your audiences – on the social media channel your audience uses most frequently – builds loyalty and allows for the timeliest response.
Play fair. Don’t hit people. While we may be tempted to throw a real punch now and then, in the PR business – and especially in a crisis – this translates into not “hitting” with words. Choose your words carefully; they pack a powerful punch. And always play fair. In a crisis situation, stay away from casting blame. A general rule of thumb is to not slam your competitors or your client’s competitors. No one comes out ahead.
Put things back where you found them. Being organized and systematic helps us to become better, more efficient and more strategic communicators.
Clean up your own mess. In crisis communication, that means taking responsibility, as appropriate, and showing care and concern for your audience.
Don’t take things that aren’t yours …ideas, images, programs, you get the picture. Be creative and original.
Say you’re sorry when you hurt somebody. A sincere apology, as appropriate, is much more effective than defensive posturing, especially in a crisis. But standing up for yourself is just as important in making sure your side of the story is told, especially if falsely accused.
Wash your hands before you eat. Flush. Common courtesy goes a long way in winning over reporters, clients and co-workers.
Live a balanced life. Hobbies and personal interests bring depth and value to your professional life. A foodie brings a colorful perspective to food pitching; an outdoor enthusiast “gets” why anyone would want to take a month-long wilderness leadership course; a sports buff brings an understanding of team work and sports analogies; a mom can truly relate to mommy bloggers and also has first-hand experience working under pressure while multitasking; an art buff offers an eye for design. Most everything you do brings business value in some way.
Learn some and think some. And play and work every day. In PR we read, read, read, follow our industries, watch for what’s new, re-invent. My younger colleagues teach me something new most every day and I hope I’m doing the same for them. It’s what helps keeps our client work fresh and relevant.
And draw and paint and sing and dance. We may only sing and dance at our annual holiday party (you know who you are!) but creating visual branding appeal has become increasingly important in communicating our client’s and our own story on a daily basis. A picture really is worth a thousand words and can be detrimental in a crisis situation.
Take a nap every afternoon. While we can’t nod off mid-day as we might like, taking a break to refresh fuels creativity and fresh thinking.
When you go out into the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands and stick together. Team work is crucial to success in an agency environment and with clients. Collaboration breeds success and a cohesive approach goes a long way in a crisis scenario.
Be aware of wonder. New approaches are part of our evolving profession as are new technologies and social media outlets. Twitter, Pinterest, the next big thing. Without wonder we grow stale.
I used to think kindergarten was just child’s play. Not anymore. Thanks boys for reminding me – once again – of the valuable life lessons we learn at a very young age that transfer to the grown up world.