Who likes to feel uncomfortable? Few would raise their hands acknowledging that fact. But as a matter of course, it comes with the job in PR. As a top ten most stressful job in the U.S. according to a 2017 Career Cast study, the ability to manage under pressure is clearly a must-have skill to be successful in the PR industry.
This past week, I was reminded of how the best results can come when we feel most uncomfortable. As I headed into an interview and photoshoot at a client site and with the daily newspaper rolling in with journalist and cameraperson to do a feature story about the company’s growth, I’m inundated with emails, phone calls and text messages from another client with a PR emergency.
Turned out, a close friend and colleague of the CEO died. The request was a tall order: the agency had five hours to get editorial at daily newspapers, business media and trade journals teed-up for an Obituary to be placed before the weekend. It was Friday at 10:30 a.m. Speed was key, but so too was strategic thinking.
I got the team on a conference call and directed everyone to clear the rest of their day for a concentrated effort. We quickly identified 10 primary media targets that were most relevant and influential. At the top of the list was the region’s largest daily newspaper and where we ran into our biggest roadblock. The paper’s Obit writer was away. We called on our contacts in the business news department for assistance. They responded immediately, directing us to three people covering for the weekend news team.
Email and telephone outreach secured the coverage before the looming 5 p.m. deadline.
There were three key things the agency learned:
- Pressure produces performance – As the leader of the agency, I set the tone noting that this was important, the client was in a jam and they were counting on us to get it done.
- Relationships matter – Due to our long-term relationships with numerous reporters and editors, we were able to get help and referrals quickly.
- Be transparent – As advisors and advocates, we were duty bound to be clear about how the process was going and our limitations. The client was updated with each advancement or set back.
No one likes to squirm in their seat and be asked to pull off the impossible, but agency account executives are conditioned to weather stress and perform at their best especially under duress. And that’s exactly what we did.
Tony DeFazio is an accomplished public relations professional and entrepreneur who has lead three agencies. He bootstrapped his first business, growing it through the Great Recession to achieve an exit. He excels at developing narratives and delivering them with resonance and impact to influencers and media around the world. DeFazio is a respected thought leader who has served in leadership positions of industry associations, and was elected President of the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC), Philadelphia Chapter and Heritage Region Board of Directors, representing 17 states in the Mid-Atlantic and Mid-West.