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PR Tip #1: Be the Calm

January 8, 2014

 PR is an ever-changing, swirling, mess of a profession. It can be the calm before the storm or the tempest that sweeps everything out from under you. You’ve got to keep up with a thousand different details that might change at any given moment. And part of your job is to be the calm in that storm.

When the reporter is screaming about a deadline or the client is going ballistic over a story he’s not in, your job is to stay calm and rise above. When the conference room isn’t packed before your client’s session starts or the reporter includes that juicy bit someone said but shouldn’t have, you need to remain calm. Storms swirl, all boats rise, calm. 

You want to be a resource when needed, a conspirator when required and a voice of reason when everyone else in the room has drunk the Kool-Aid. But you can’t be anything of these things if you don’t remain, you guessed it, calm…and rational.


There is a time and place for big ideas, for amazing campaigns and PR stunts that wow the world (crop circles anyone?), but there is more often a time for being the PR person that folks can count on. Reporters count on you to pitch an interesting story, to understand the details enough to help them get back the first blush of interest, and to ensure they have the access they need to write something unique and interesting and a story that other people want to read and share.


Your clients want to know that you have things handled when they go off the rails, or just seem to. They want to know that you can fix things, even when you can’t, or that at least you’ll make sure they don’t happen again. Because things will go wrong, events won’t turn out as expected, coverage won’t always be favorable. I remember an event we were part of a few years ago that had an unfortunate choice in venue and some of the attending press didn’t like it. I talked to a couple of the irked media and helped smooth things over, but the PR folks from another vendor went for Option B: they were “outraged” and “embarrassed” and unabashedly “apologetic” and built what could have been a molehill of a problem into a mountain. They even hosted, at their headquarters thousands of miles from the event, a six hour crisis situation meeting for something that was solved with a change of venue and a few soft spoken words at the airport bar.


Basically, in our world, everyone has the right to ride the madness but us, because going off the deep end doesn’t buy us anything. Doesn’t give us more credibility with reporters or gain us more respect from clients or executives. It doesn’t win you points with conference and award organizers, or gain you followers on Twitter.


Just so we’re clear, I’m not saying we can’t get mad or be direct, firm or contrary. It just means we should do it calmly, in a rational manner. This is especially true when a real crisis hits your company or client. One thing that will help it to have contingency plans in place long before a crisis hits but as important as that pre-planning is, you'll go a long way in helping your company resolve, overcome or weather a crisis if you're the calm voice in the storm.

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