My career in public relations began a bit nontraditionally in the world of politics. As a political science major in college, I began volunteering, and eventually working full time, on various political and advocacy campaigns in Boston, New York and Richmond, VA.
Though politics may seem miles away from consumer and corporate public relations, just like a political campaign, working on a major PR initiative requires teamwork, dedication and preparation.
As we watch to see which candidates come out ahead this Super Tuesday, here are the top four lessons I learned on the campaign trail which I’ve transferred to my work at CooperKatz.
1. Focus on finding solutions instead of dwelling on the challenges
At a challenging moment on one of my campaigns, our Campaign Manager advised our team to focus on a solution instead of wasting precious time worrying about our workload in the face of a looming deadline.
When embarking on a short-term project in any industry, it’s easy to become overwhelmed by fast-approaching deadlines or unforeseen obstacles. It’s always a best practice to identify your challenges, but try to focus on how to overcome them rather than stressing over them. Not only will this maximize your time and efficiency, but it will also allow you to keep a level head as you chug along on your work.
2. You get some of what you do ask for, and none of what you don’t ask for
While working at a women’s political caucus, my supervisor shared this advice to motivate me to be more assertive and confident. In PR terms, I look at this adage as a way to motivate me to pitch to the media and tell the stories I think should be heard.
For example, if I pick up the phone and tell a reporter about my client, there are two possible outcomes: they will either want to learn more or they will decline the offer. If I don’t pick up the phone to speak with a reporter, there is only one possible outcome: my client will not get their story placed.
3. Know your audience
Once while preparing for an event with voters, my supervisor handed me a list of generic talking points and asked me to discuss them with our guests. In retrospect, a more effective strategy would have been to look at the demographics of the group and determine what issues mattered most to them.
This one seems like a no-brainer, but it’s surprising how often this is overlooked in politics and the media! When communicating with the media (or even your clients), it’s important to keep in mind that their time is valuable and you should only share the information they find interesting and useful. Knowing and understanding your audience is key, and is likely to yield stronger results.
4. Surround yourself with a team you can trust
Each of my campaign teams became family to me; everyone from our candidates to our volunteers. When you’re in an environment where everyone has a common goal, you bond over wanting to cross the finish line together. Your team won’t go far if each member focuses on crossing that finish line first.
At CooperKatz, I know I can depend on my teammates to not only carry their weight but also motivate each other during the uphill climbs. My favorite thing about our agency is our collegial nature. If I’m on an account team in the midst of a challenging project, I know I can turn to my team members for support and motivation on the road to our common goal.
Whether you’re working towards your candidate’s Election Day or your client’s launch date, the end game is always success. These lessons will allow you to keep a level head, stay focused, and motivate you as you travel the road to the finish line.
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