What my daughter taught me about PR


I have a little “big” girl whom I was blessed with in 2010. A beautiful year in many ways for South Africa as a country and my family. This little angel changed the way I look at life in general. Over the years I have watched her grow to become a big girl who has started using whatever life lessons she has picked up thus far. She has become a handful and lately has started inspiring me in ways I would not have thought possible.

Each time we sit and engage in conversation I walk away with a chuckle, a lump in my throat or a lesson because of the things she says and does.

Children have a way of making you as an adult sit up and think twice. Here are few things that my daughter does that inspire me to be the best PR professional I can be, and hopefully will inspire you as well.

Have a childlike curiosity: my child will throw herself into anything that looks vaguely interesting and will come back and explain how it works.

To this point, I believe as consultants we should be at the forefront looking at the latest trends and innovations that we can use to get our clients’ messages out there.

The only way to achieve this is to be curious about what is out there and be ready to explain to our clients how it works and if it’s sustainable for them to get involved. Unless clients’ message can be there consistently then there is no need to even bother looking at a particular trend.

Handle crises as a child would: run home (in this case to your PR agency, and if you don’t have one – get one fast).

A while back I was home watching the television, when my daughter ran in frantically. She told me there was a gentlemen chasing her and her friend. She came clean and confessed to have been playing with matches.

“It was not me. My friend was the one with matches and paper, I was not doing anything, and now this gentleman is coming after us.”

Doesn’t this scenario sound familiar? Client calls to tell you that they have received a call from a journalist posing some questions and they have stalled for time to consult you as their PR agency. Our first counsel is always to come clean and give a response as quickly as possible. The idea is to own the conversation, keep your stakeholders confident and sail through a crisis by communicating your plans to rectify what went wrong.

Honesty: Our line of business requires honesty, first to self before it can be transferred to client, because this goes a long way to creating trust.

My daughter knows that she is not allowed to chew gum and without fail she will find herself eating a sucker that has gum inside it. She will turn that in to either myself, my wife or her teacher.

I view this trait as critical in building trust between clients and yourself as a consultant. Clients never have to doubt the information you are giving to them and this is cultivated over time to consistently give consultancy of the highest standard.

Sometimes it means gently telling client that there is no story in what they want to communicate and why media will not be as excited as they may be about the “news” they want to convey.

The same goes for my daughter – we have had to consistently remind her that she is not allowed to chew gum at her age, and only when she is much older will she be allowed to. This she has accepted and as a result she gladly volunteers the gum to an older person.

Re-assurance: children are show-offs of note. My daughter will make sure that you know when she has done something that she believes will bowl you over. All she is looking for is approval from me to say “good girl, well done, I’m proud of you”.

Clients are like that as well. As consultants we need to be there for them at all times especially pre and post media engagements. We should not take for granted that they have been media trained a couple of times. They are always looking for our assurance and reassurance as experts to say they handled the interview well and/or to point out aspects of the interview that could have been handled better.

There are many other things I could share that my daughter does, which make me sit up and pay attention, and which I find ways to weave into how I do things as a PR consultant.

What are some of the things you have picked up in the environment that we could use to improve our trade? 

Thandukwazi Gcabashe is a senior account executive at WE South Africa

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