Getting the results a PR pro wants requires individual commitment alongside collaboration, flexibility mixed with careful planning, negotiated terms alongside blind trust. Plus, as it says right in the name, everything you do is public.
The stakes are high, with your own professional aspirations on the line as well as your client’s or organization’s brand and business objectives.
In a perfect world, you get clear signals from stakeholders about the goals of your campaigns, then conduct your research, make your plan and then execute seamlessly and successfully. However, you don’t work in a perfect world.
Here are four simple phrases of four words each that can be especially helpful in those stressful moments of left turns, client whims and unforeseen challenges.
1. “I need your help.”
My boss calls these the four most important words in the English language. By pausing to recognize and articulate your need for help, you not only reiterate that you trust and rely on those around you — you also validate and grow their engagement as valued contributors.
Bonus: You can’t go wrong reminding your team that you could never do it alone.
2. “Let’s not panic yet.”
Did you watch Ken Burns’ “The Roosevelts” on PBS? The entire series was riveting, but what made the greatest impression on me was FDR’s consistently calm demeanor in the face of bad news. Most of us are unlikely to face any stakes even remotely as high as getting the country out of the Great Depression and then World War II.
When I give myself permission to remain calm in the face of an emerging crisis, my team functions better and we often find that the anticipation was worse than the reality. In PR as in so many other pursuits, the only thing you have to fear is fear itself.
3. “Yes, you are right.”
Circumstances change rapidly. What made sense for a communications plan written a week ago may no longer be smart or even relevant by the end of today.
I picked up this four-word phrase from the head of an agency team I worked with. An excellent listener and a role model of adaptability, she works to ensure that the best ideas are the ones that drive strategy, not merely her own ideas. Ever since the first time I heard her say this, I’ve looked for opportunities to say it as frequently as possible to those around me.
4. “Say more about that.”
PR pros work with tight budgets and constantly looming deadlines. When they meet, they typically don’t have time to fully explain their vision. Later, if you fail to achieve results, you might have a nagging sense that you weren’t so clear on the goals from the outset.
Yet it can be hard to be the one to pipe up in a meeting to ask for more details or admit you don’t understand. “Say more about that” is a simple way to get someone to share their vision in a bit more detail and spares you from admitting you didn’t get it yet.
Plus, most people are happy to expound on what they’re excited about.
Holly Teichholtz is SVP, Communications and Content Strategies, at The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research.