Just recently, I wrote about my personal ‘learning as I go while broadcasting about it’ strategy. I used the CASE event on public affairs in education as an example. So I talked about how I learn and cover these events, but I didn’t talk about what I learnt. So many of this will boring for the consummate PR professional – however, there were some take home points which I have … taken home:
Be vigilant about sticking to a well-crafted message
I think this is really applicable in the workplace – and is something that I’m careful about applying. Once a message has been agreed to, you’ve got to stick to it. In my current workplace, it’s ‘we need a career management system’, and we’ve stuck to that message (rightly) for four years. And, yes, it’s working – but it’s all about sticking to the consensus, and hammering home the this message. Of course it’s important to review your position regularly, and to change your policy if needed (with a message just as clear) – but inconsistencies must be avoided, as they will make things worse and may not be repaired.
Disclose bad news first – on your terms
I strongly believe that. If something’s bad, it will not get better by waiting. The earlier you are seen to deal with something, the more competent your handling of the situation will be seen – and you may get the chance to frame the terms of the debate. And then, apply the principle above. Read: ‘There’s a big issue with our company database, but rest assured, our new career management system will take care of it once and for all.’
Fill the void and ‘feed the beast’
That one was a new thought to me, but I’m down with it nonetheless: Don’t let people find holes in your coverage – because they will fill it with something negative. It’s all about finding creative ways to offer new information in the context of your message. Read in my example: ‘Just a quick update – our career management system is well on its way.’
When you’re organising a high profile event, it’s about three and a half months before the event that the really high-profile people’s diaries are getting more accessible again. So people you couldn’t invite around six months in advance might suddenly become available.
Personally, I don’t know where this one sits – but I just found it an interesting statement.
Never underestimate the value of a good crisis – if there is none, find one
Now while that one’s funny, I think there may be a lot of truth in it – and I’m sure it informs a lot of practice. Your decider – the higher the level – will not want to be confronted with a problem, or badgered with your personal hobby horse topic (see ‘career management system’ above). However, if it’s the solution to a problem you have identified, it may help you achieve your strategic goals.
Disclaimer: I’m of course not devious enough for this one – just reporting what I’ve heard…
Politicians want stories – experts want data
Now that I found interesting – and I think it also works for non-politician deciders, but anyone whose role focuses on convincing audiences to achieve their aims. I personally think I’m a bit of a hybrid on this one, as my role often requires convincing (like a politician), but my thorough academic grounding in my earlier life (thanks, Dad, and my mentor, the late Prof Laube): if you haven’t got evidence, you have no leg to stand with me. A story will to me only ever be anecdotal ‘evidence’, however, if the story is backed by credible data, then I’m in. I think this one comes back to knowing your audience – in retrospect a valuable lesson for me when I look back at some of my past talks.
So this is what I’ve learnt, and what I’m intending to apply.