Category Archives: Mistakes

“I tried to control the internet and it worked.” Said no one. Ever.

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I, like many of you, my mind was blown watching Beyonce’s Super Bowl halftime show. I was just in aw of the dancing, the hair flips, her amazing costume – it was an incredible performance. We all thought so – everyone I watched with agreed it was the best half time show in years.

On a related note, aren’t Mondays awful? I bet Beyonce’s publicist sure thought so the morning after the Super Bowl. Just doing her job, asking a pesky blog to remove unflattering stills of the jaw-dropping performance the day before. And wouldn’t you know it – the Internet got annoyed at her attempt to censor it, and bit back. Big time.

Don’t try to control the internet.

What could have been the stuff of halftime show legend, is now comic book legend. I mean, really great that champion body-builder Beyonce can share her other talents, like singing. And hair flipping.

[Image courtesy of]

Details, details… Why You (as a young PRo) Need To Be Nit-Picky NOW.

picture-1I am not the most detail-oriented person. Not by a long shot. I am more what you’d call a “Big Picture,” conceptual person. Which is why, in the first months of my job, I struggled a lot with not seeing the value in details and not grasping for a while just HOW MUCH I needed to harness those details on all of my teams.

If your work environment is anything like mine, you’re on multiple teams and it’s very collaborative. Everyone does everything until the job gets done. It’s nice to see the managers of accounts chiming in and even sometimes drafting pitches and releases.

These are wonderful things to be able to expect from your teams and and managers. However, bear in mind what is expected of you at the bottom of the totem pole:

1. You are the gate-keeper of information. Your account managers will often be overseeing all of the high-level activity in several accounts, not just yours. It’s up to you to be on top of every single detail and moving part within your account so that if they need to know if a client has sent their feedback on a release, you can update them right away.

2. You are the task master. If someone’s been assigned a new Washington Post target, you need to check and make sure they’ve been pitched. You need to be sure of everyone’s pitching progress at any time. You need to know everyone’s progress on everything at all times. Don’t be afraid to manage up on this one.

3. Your clients probably care. Client-facing emails, especially with small companies aren’t uncommon for the young AA or AAE. Typos (and believe me, I am THE WORST with typos, just read some of my past blogs) look so bad to clients. Doesn’t matter if it’s a short, logistical (“Please use the usual dial-in”) message or a large, content-heavy correspondence. Same for client deliverables – PR reports, tracking sheets, whether hard copies, PDFs or Google docs, these need to be flawless.

4. Your teams DO care. They definitely care if they can’t trust you to send simple messages that are error-free to clients. Especially avoidable errors. Spell-check and have them proofed (it’s a killer to your writer/communicator’s ego, but worth it when you start to pick up the nuances of client communications). Never send a client email without letting your team know, or CC-ing them (once again, please learn from MY mistakes here).

5. It kind of becomes second nature. At some point you just learn how to do it without thinking about it. And you’ll find that as your organization increases so does your productivity. So it’s definitely worth the extra care and time that you put into it now.

6. Important: If you let them, disorganization and small mistakes WILL run the way you do things and define you as a professional. Small mistakes that go unchecked can quickly brand you as sloppy and unprofessional and will even faster become habits and harder to manage and rid yourself of.

This has been one of the most aggravating things to learn as I’ve gone out into the “real world.” Do whatever it takes to incorporate this into your work habits even if you’re cursing those detail oriented, anal-retentives who sit next to you. Eat some humble pie and learn from them.

*Organization tips to follow. Photo courtesy of Details magazine.

Mischief Managed: Recovering From PR Blunders

In my spare time, I’ve been reading Jane Eyre and at one point in the lengthy conversations between Mr. Rochester and Jane, I felt very convicted by something he said to her in an argument: “You are afraid – Your self-love dreads blunder.”

Here is something to which I can relate. I don’t know if it’s self-love that drives me or makes me hesitate, but I do think it is, to some extent, a fear of mistakes or messing up. I’m a cautious and slow mover. I fear that my chance and risk-taking won’t pan out to success. My question is, when you mess up, how do you recover? This isn’t crisis management but, to reference to Harry Potter, “mischief management”.

In a recent article by Keith Ferrazzi, Founder and CEO of Ferrazzi Greenlight, a strategic consulting and professional development firm, he gives advice on how to deal with both personal and professional mistakes and blunders.

1. Get some perspective: This makes sense to me. In the grand scheme of things, assess how much does this really matter?

2. Assess and forgive yourself: In the grand scheme of YOU (and/or your company), how much does this mistake represent?

3. Come clean: Trust comes from full disclosure and free-flowing information. This goes for all relationships, personal and professional. At least in my experience.

4. Get back on the polo horse: I don’t really get why he stipulated that it was a polo horse, but I’ll take it. Move on by moving on. Prove to everyone that this mistake doesn’t define you or your work.

This is very good advice and coupled with what I’m learning in college, it should help in at least assessing and projecting recovery tactics for PR blunders and mistakes. In my PR classes, my instructors have presented the “wrong” ways to do things and even given us some examples of easily avoidable blunders and then how they were mishandled. The media is full of such situations. I’ve even blogged about them (See “Let’s Rethink This”).

For example, let’s look at former aide to Barack Obama, Samantha Power and how her off-hand and insulting remarks toward Hilary Clinton cost her a comfortable advising position in Obama’s campaign when Hilary didn’t accept her apology. What’s worse is that she’s a professor at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government and a Pulitzer prize-winning author. Apprently, in an interview with The Scotsman, a Scottish newspaper, she called Senator Clinton “a monster” in an off-the-record comment which the paper ended up publishing.

How was this mischief managed? She quit. She also went to the press.

According to the Irish television network RTE, Power told a reporter, when asked if she regretted her comments, “Of course I regret them, I can’t even believe they came out of my mouth.” She went on, [Sentator Clinton] is also incredibly warm, funny. I’ve spent time with her. I think that I just had a very weak moment in seeing some of the tactics, it seems, that were getting employed.”

This is all well and good, but let’s see how this fares in Keith Ferrazzi’s 4-step formula.

Did she:

1. Get some perspective? Yes – and she decided that this blunder would cost the Obama campaign more than her pride was worth. In the grand scheme of things, it mattered.
2. Assess and forgive herself? Sure. Or at least she’s getting there. Her press follow-up showed her remorse and regret over the situation and that she was looking to move forward.

3. Come clean? Well yes, the initial incriminating interview actually did that for her, and her above-mentioned press follow-up allowed her to own up to her mistake and apologize for it.

4. Get back on the polo horse? Well I don’t know. In an interview with the Boston Globe, she said that she resigned from her aide position to remove all of the distractions that her comments had brought on the campaign. That probably includes staying out of the public eye now that she’s had a chance to put an apology out through the press. I can’t find anything other than her RTE interview. If you can, please let me know via comment.

All things considered, I think Samantha Power handled it as well as anyone could. And now that I have some idea of how to handle mistakes, I hope to be inspired to drive my decision-making with my aspirations and goals rather than let it be bridled by my fears of screwing up. It seems to me that mistakes and the managing of them are essential experiences and that they can only benefit my understanding of PR and add to my ease as a future practitioner.

I can only hope Samantha Power eventually sees it that way if she doesn’t already.

*Image courtesy of PrAsanGaM via Flickr.