In PR and in journalism, there are lots of stereotypes in play. People love them and love to band everyone together into a generic category that is ripe for ridicule and scorn. Soooo much fun! There are biases and assumptions, condemnation and narcissism, bullies and airheads – in both camps. The challenge of working in an always-on, globally connected world driven, in large part, by social media, is how do we work together without becoming jaded, bitter curmudgeons that are no fun at parties?
First, it would be good to just be nicer. Nicer in person, nicer in email, nicer on Twitter…especially nicer on Twitter. I don’t mean nicer in the Southern way when folks say “isn’t she sweet” or “bless your heart” and not mean it. I mean really….be….nicer. Treat people around you with the professional respect you’d like to be treated with, especially when they don’t deserve it.
This is more than just being polite. Nice is also about doing your job well so that the people you work with can easily do theirs better. It’s about being prepared, organized and on time. It’s about paying attention and showing a genuine interest in what the other person is saying, or at least trying to say.
It’s about doing the research required to make sure you’re reaching out to the right person, or doing the research needed before an interview so that you don’t waste everyone’s time. This can be particularly hard when you have a gauntlet of back-to-back interviews and the interviewee isn’t particular engaging.
Being nice is also recognizing you’re going to run into people every day at different stages of their careers, and sometimes they just might not know better yet. The PR person that is overly excited or the reporter that thinks snide is a good interview technique can be annoying to everyone, but it’s usually a sign the person is just trying to figure out how to do a challenging job in an unforgiving environment. It can also be taking the time to stop and think for a second what might have happened outside your own interaction with them that might be throwing their game off.
Reporters and PR folks are just people. They get up in the morning, brush their teeth, send their kids to school, pay their taxes, etc. There are hundreds of things that can happen on any given day that can impact how they are perceived in the brief moment you might interact with them. It’s a shame most people, on either side of the fence, don’t take the time to step back and give someone the benefit of doubt. Because you know, it’s so much easier to take to Twitter and try and shame them.
One of the things that makes my skin crawl on Twitter is #PRFail. Yes, sometimes PR people pitch the wrong person, but reporters also get things wrong. We all do because that’s human nature. The truth is, PR and journalists inhabit the same world and we’re all moving at a break-neck pace. It would be a much nicer world if we could all, bless our hearts, be a little more polite.