What can you learn from your PR mistakes?

Making a mistake is completely normal while working. The point is what did you learn from you and how did you use it to bounce back. As J.K. Rowling says, “We speak about success all the time. It is the ability to resist failure or use failure that often leads to greater success.”

PRmoment India spoke to PR professionals to find out what were the setbacks in their work live and how did they deal with them.

Understanding what information can be shared with a journalist

Reby Abraham has this story to tell about handling journalists. He says, “For me, one incident that still upsets me, is when I fell prey to the flattery of a journalist and shared vital information. This was regarding a media agency we were handling and there were strong rumors’ about a major acquisition or joint venture with another company. The news was internally on hold due to certain business reasons. One journalist pestered me for details and persuaded me to share it saying 'I just want to know'. The speculative story came out the next day with sensitive financial data and, as expected, all hell broke loose. The client had to face a lot of heat from stakeholders, the team had to do a lot of damage control and the agency reputation took a beating.”

Reby says he learnt a strong lesson the hard way. He says, “That incident made me realize that as gatekeepers of information we need to be alert and be aware of such situations because people will try and use any means to get a scoop. We need to develop the acumen to understand what lies ahead.”

Ensuring a good relationship with a marquee client

Senior account manager, Swati Guwalani says she, “Got on the wrong side of the client. I worked with a marquee client, and just did not get along well with one of the corporate communications people at the client side. A small argument snowballed into a battle, where in we were just looking at findings faults with each other. Every communication had a subtle blame hidden somewhere. This completed disrupted the working relationship of not just us, but the whole team. The client personnel's perception of me as the campaign manager diminished and it impacted my impression across other members of the corporate communications team.”

Swati decided to work hard to turn around the situation. She says, “I kept the personal bit aside and decided to do my work to the best of my ability, ignoring the client’s initial remarks. I made it a point to listen keenly to the brief and not just that, but also get the background behind urgent ‘asks’ with tight timelines. That helped me understand that the client is also only reacting to what is being asked of her. This inculcated a sense of partnership in the relationship that had been missing all this while. This attitude was noticed and appreciated by the client in front of the whole team in the quarter review.”

Swati says her big learning from this is that, “Perceptions and impressions don't go away, they go wherever the person goes- good, bad or ugly. One should be very careful while dealing with a client, try and understand their perspective, their pressures while taking a brief and most importantly respond to asks rather than reacting.”

Losing a pitch

Nikhil D'Rozario, CEO, Everymedia Entertainment Marketing Pvt. Ltd, narrates this story from his days with Percept. “I very precisely remember this one time when I was working with Percept Profile, Gulf, and there was a huge pitch that we had to work on for an Island launch project, involving one of the largest commercial Islamic investment banks in the world. During that period, my CEO was travelling to London and had asked me to put together the entire brand strategy pitch for the same. Keeping the eventual target audience in mind, I created the pitch based on proper brand building principles.”

“When my CEO analyzed the presentation he said, “Nikhil, I know the client really well and I don’t think this is going fly with them.” I had gone ahead with the classic structure of branding- in which there is a connect of parent brands and sub-brands so it looks like a family of brands. He also gave me a few suggestions on how and what needs to be done. And I said, “I do not think this is the right approach as it more so was not in line with brand building norms.”  To which he added, “You are the person on ground Nikhil, so you take the call on it.” I did exactly what I felt should be done. We invested a lot of money for this pitch, got the best of the branding guys to work on it and then we presented. However, we lost the pitch for exactly the same reason my CEO had warned me about. My CEO knew what the client would exactly need, which was, 'A completely different identity for the sub brands leaving no connect with parent brand.'

Nikhil shares that, “The lesson I learned from this was a very fundamental lesson. Public relations, is all about knowing the public and how we maintain relations with them. I was making a presentation for someone without knowing the triggers of that person and that is something I have never forgotten. Through my entire life of PR and marketing I have made sure that I put across this point in my communication & messaging plans and that, yes you may be my client but if the message is intended to a third person then, that third person becomes more important. “

The dreaded mass mail!

Gunjan Sharma, PR professional says that, “During my mass mailing, I accidentally marked everyone in "TO" instead of "BCC", which ended up in a lash out from my boss, in front of the office. Since then, I check twice before sending a mass mail or even a new mail or a forwarded mail. That one incident made me very conscious.

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