Everything I Needed to Know (About PR) I Learned From Mom
For some of us, the lessons from the book, “All I Ever Really Needed to Know I Learned in Kindergarten,” still rings true. “Play fair, clean up your own mess, wash your hands before you eat, work hard.” Thinking back over my life, a lot of the advice I call upon in my personal and professional life also came from my mom. I use her guidance in how I treat my loved ones, family and friends, and everything in between –and even in my career and as a business owner.
I remember struggling with math in my formative years, making math homework a nightly battle. My mom, who also happened to be an elementary school teacher for more than 30 years, was calm, steady and authoritative. She found ways to explain the math formulas in a way I could understand but she also forced me to work it out and come up with the answers on my own. Ultimately, because she taught me to be patient and self-disciplined, I could tackle complex math even through high-school and college. This also may be why I’ve adopted the mantra “don’t give up” and I just keep working it until I get to the correct answer. When I get stuck, I often think of my mom’s firm advice. She didn’t have sympathy, rather she just told me over and over, “keep at it, be tough, and don’t give up.”
As a public relations (PR) professional and a business owner, I face challenges regularly that call for toughness and staying calm in the face of adversity. This is when my mom’s ‘don’t give up’ mantra really helps and it often mirrors the philosophy of my clients. This mantra makes for happy clients, solid journalist and analyst relationships, and a constant quest for me and my business to deliver the best possible results while always striving to do better.
In honor of Mother’s Day, I wanted to share the top five lessons on how my mom’s early advice sticks with me and continues to help me in my career today as a PR professional and business owner.
Lesson #1: Surround yourself with people that you trust
My mom always emphasized the importance of surrounding yourself with people that have your best interest at heart. In the PR world and with running a business, it is crucial to develop trust with clients, media, analysts and employees. If you cannot trust them and vice versa with your vision and your process, do not let them in — it will only hurt you and potentially your bottom line and reputation. It’s essential to cultivate relationships and surround yourself with people you trust and rely on and informs you to part ways with those that will only bring you down.
Lesson #2: Have grace under pressure
In a crisis, my mom was the one you wanted by your side. She was the personification of grace under fire. She never panicked and kept a calm voice, at least in front of my siblings and me.
Dealing with pressure is a part of the PR world and is the case when running a business and dealing with the shifts in the economy and media landscape. Being able to stand strong and do what needs to be done rationally is important. You’re allowed to have emotions, you’re human. Whether that means helping a client in crisis or overcoming an obstacle in the business, it’s crucial that no matter the deadline, client request or employee issue, it’s important to take a deep breath and have grace under pressure.
Lesson #3: Set realistic expectations with you and your colleagues
In tech PR and in running a business, it’s easy to get caught up in people-pleasing, i.e. keeping clients and employees happy. It’s hard to say no when confronted with an eager client or to a reporter with whom you’ve developed a good rapport. However, saying yes or agreeing to do a project outside of the client contract, just to appease people, is never the right course of action, especially when you cannot follow through. If your words and actions don’t align, you will end up losing business and key relationships.
Lesson #4: When you make mistakes, apologize and own it
We all have good intentions, but sometimes we make mistakes. For example, we make a promise to a client and cannot deliver on it or we say something that insults a colleague or employee. Nobody is perfect and my mom was always the first to remind me of that. She also insisted that when you mess up, own up to it and apologize. A typical crisis communications tactic is issuing an apology – assuming the mistake was theirs – and taking subsequent action to correct the mistake and make sure not to make the same mistake twice. When you’re wrong, not admitting fault or trying to pass the buck not only makes you look like you have something to hide but it makes you seem insensitive. A sincere apology goes a long way, especially when followed up by a period of sound reflection and correction.
Lessons #5: Learn and master your craft
It goes without saying that, as a schoolteacher, my mom viewed education as a key to success. Learning continues well beyond the classroom and it is critical to keep up on the latest trends in technology and PR. To stay ahead of the changes and to master your craft requires going through regular training, participating in webinars, reading and going through online training courses.
My mom, sadly, passed away earlier this year but her love for her family and her life lessons live on in how I and my siblings approach our professions, and our lives. We at Engage PR hope that everyone out there is staying healthy and has been lucky enough to have had a parent, or other mentors, that helped instil similar lessons and values in you that will make businesses and society stronger when our current challenges and their fallout have passed.