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7 Essential Principles to Succeed in PR

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Forget strategy for a minute.  Put tactics on pause.  Forget leads, conversions, and sales.

Let’s consider principles.

I can’t say these will work for you, I can only say they have worked for me.  I’ve titled them principles to succeed in PR, but they may well be relevant for those in other industries.

My seven principles are:

1) Our word is everything.

If we give our word, we must keep it.  It’s a choice.

I tend avoid absolutes, such as “never” and “always” in PR because there are always exceptions, but when it comes to our word, there are never not exceptions.

We either keep it or we do not, there is no in between.

2) Persuasion over manipulation.  

Critics might argue semantics, but I believe the contrast is stark between persuasion and manipulation.  

If you build a reputation on manipulation, contrived news, and at the expense of others, you might earn the distinction of going bankrupt twice over.

Aim to convince people your idea is so compelling it merits interest, rather than try to fool bloggers or reporters for a quick hit.

3) PR is a marathon, not a sprint.

PR is not a quick hit.  It doesn’t (usually) happen fast.  

It happens over time, it’s cumulative and it snow balls like momentum. Whether you work for a corporation or an agency, we must manage expectations to allow time for us to persuade.

4) Strive to treat everyone with dignity.  

General officers have this quality. Some CEOs have this quality.  They can listen to you and give you the idea you are the most important person in the world for a moment. 

I’ll be the first to admit, I fall short here and I do so often.  We are all human.  We get mad.  We react. Flight or fight is instinctive.

But strive.  Maslow’s hierarchy is the same for everyone.

5) Intellectual curiosity is paramount.

There is very little we can absorb in a moment that will help; beyond the weather or traffic, there’s little in the news that will make us instantly smart, rather it is the aggregate, of reading over time that builds knowledge.

We should read everything we can get out hands on.

Read about business to build competence.  Read fiction to spark creativity.  Read history for context — sometimes the most successful entrepreneurs aren’t students of business, but students of history because they understand context.

My iPhone is brimming with information. Apps to bring me content.  Podcasts for news.  Audiobooks for ideas.  When we have a free minute, we can add ideas or we can play Angry Birds.

“You have to fall down 1,000 times before you’re an expert.”  

6) It’s okay to make mistakes.  

When learning to ski as a young boy, my father used to say, “You have to fall down 1,000 times before you’re an expert.”  

It’s okay to make mistakes.  Fall down. Break a leg.  Reflect.

Later, think though what went right and what went wrong — herein lies the key to improvement.

7) Do something you love.  

If going to work bears a big, black cloud over our heads, then it’s time to leave.  

If we don’t believe in our product, our service or our cause, if our heart isn’t in it, then it’s time to go.

Mark Twain is attributed with having said:

“Twenty years from now you’ll be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than the things you did.  So cast off the bowlines, sail away from safe harbor.  Let the trade winds catch your sales.  Explore.  Dream.  Discover.”

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  • These are great tips, Frank!
     
    Many of these points resonate with me, and I would say many of them are essential to succeed in just about any industry or job. I second your last point– work isn’t worth it for your career if you do not enjoy it. Too much, people think they have to “pay their dues” in order to get to where they want to be. I’d argue there are no dues to pay, just limitations we place on ourselves.
     

    •  @Krista Agreed.  That’s another saying from my old man, may he RIP, but figured I could only plug him once! 😉  Thanks, Krista. 

  • LondonPR

    Great tips – thank you for sharing!
     

    •  @LondonPR Is the link really necessary?  Livefyre already gives you a link. Maybe I should add an 8th principle. 

  • mediameck

    Great as usual Frank, wouldn’t expect anything less from a military man. These principles are solid foundation for work ethics but I feel a lot of life applications in there as well. You’re insights are much appreciated! Cheers

    •  @mediameck Cheers, Matt. Much appreciated.

  • mediameck

    Great as usual Frank, wouldn’t expect anything less from a military man. These principles are solid foundation for work ethics but I feel a lot of life applications in there as well. You’re insights are much appreciated! Cheers

  • I never want to be described as a manipulator. Persuasion is very different from manipulation.

    •  @TheJackB I’m so with you.  Now I must go read your post! 

      •  @TheJackB Tried to leave a comment on your blog post, but for some reason, it won’t allow me to.  Maybe I’ve been blocked?  At any rate, I would have said, that “I just left you a voicemail.”

        •  @Frank_Strong Hi Frank. Sorry about that. I installed LF 3 and have been having a few issues with it. Hope to get it sorted out soon.

  • SaysJoeSchum

    Your comment about PR being a marathon not a sprint is a challenge we experience. As a young company, we are impatient to get noticed before the $$ goes dry but we have to make interesting and newsworthy choices to share with our current and potential audience to make the greatest impact.  Thanks for the tips.

    •  @SaysJoeSchum I can appreciate that Joe, since I got started in tech PR working for venture-backed start ups.  I found it would take about 6 months to get some momentum; then it gets easier once you start to build a reputation.  The most valuable thing you can provide to your PR folks is access — give them an hour every week with a different executive. Have them interview them about the company, the strategy and current industry trends.  This will spark ideas.  One other tactic that works well for start-ups is guest posts and contributed articles.  Focus on the idea — thought leadership — don’t sell the product, sell the (idea) concept behind the product.  

  • Great post, Frank. I came here by way of a Pinterest pin by Ragan Communications and am now subscribing. These are all applicable to so many endeavors and professions. I’d offer that success itself is a marathon, not a sprint. Even what seems like “overnight success” is often boosted by years of hard work. As the saying goes, “the harder I work, the luckier I am,” right? 

    •  @rsmithing Indeed!  I once heard luck being describes as hard work meets opportunity!  

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