I have abridged Lord Chadlington’s recent speech (June 15, 2004) to the Guild of Public Relations Practioners. In his speech Chadlington outlined the following rules:
– Everything is possible. Everything good and everything bad! Most things are uncontrollable – particularly in our business. Events will always upset the best – laid plans. In that context, rule one, is to be positive. That does not mean you have to be a joke-cracking comic when the world is collapsing around you. Nor do you have to be Polyanna! It means that you must face bad news, full frontal: face reality as it is. Do not hide. The solution to problems is not pretending they are not there. The answer often lies in the analysis of the problem itself. Dissect it. Do not shy away. Be positive. Above all else, be positive by grasping and taking responsibility. Do not allow yourself to be sidelined. Make yourself and your skills the driver that makes things happen by being accountable and responsible
– Never give up. Ours is a very difficult profession. We tend to be – despite the public image – remarkably sensitive, creative people. And were it not so – then we would be no good at our jobs! The result is that we are more hurt by the unpredictability of events, by the buffeting of clients and journalists, than we care to admit. Being resilient, robust, bouncing back – these are all the essentials of success
– Read. Yes read – and I do not mean the papers! For an industry that wishes to be regarded with esteem, our practitioners often seem very ill informed. If we aspire to be more than what we are, then we must stay ahead of what is going on in the world, in industry, in the arts, in politics, in literature. An evening reading Trollope is certainly a more constructive way of advancing your understanding of human nature than almost anything else
– Think. Reading and thinking go together. I have never met a PR professional who thinks too much! Learning to think is the most difficult part of education. Clients do not want the same solutions you gave to the last client – except the name has been changed. They want you to solve their particular problems. Think. Close the door for a few hours and think. Blackberries, emails, mobile phones and the like are the enemies of this process. What did Russell say? “ When all others options have failed, man is thrown back to the painful necessity of thought”
– Be much more questioning.Very often we are so keen to hear the good news: so encouraged that our client has good financial results to put out: so delighted by the client relationship we are developing – that we just do not want to upset the apple cart. Interrogate the clients. Argue with them. Make sure that they are running businesses in a way that enhance your reputations as advocates. What is the Washington quote? “Associate yourself with men of good quality if you esteem your own reputation, for ‘tis better to be alone than in bad company”.
– Never mix business and pleasure. It is much more difficult to be objective, ask difficult questions, be independent, if your clients step over that line into friendship. Neither can you judge the performance of a colleague if that line between civility and friendship is crossed – and it is even more difficult if your families know each other socially as well! I agree with most of the rules, his never do business with friends statement I think needs to be more flexible, some of my best friends are former colleagues and they are the kind of people that I would trust with my PR programme. I would modify it to be cognisant of the effect your friendship may have on business and be professional about it.
– Pay well. Get the best people on board. Have clients pay well too. If your clients pay you top dollar then you can give them the best people you have and you have the time to think about their problems. The best work I have ever done is where the client has been generous in his fees. I have made money and the client has either saved it – or made it – many times over!
– Honesty is vital. Not just about the big things but the little things too. Best practice is so important. Every tiny deviation from being whiter than white undermines your credibility – not because you are found out – but because you are more likely to bend the rules next time
– Always manage expectations. Exceeding expectations by the tiniest margin is viewed as a great success. Failing by the tiniest smidgeon is always – what it is – failure! What is Maurice Saatchi’s famous equation? Satisfaction = performance – expectation.
– It is the small things that matter: the research you do for a meeting, the care you take, even the way you dress – all these things build up a cumulative effect and determine how your client or your boss view your performance.
I would add the following:
– Banish the word never, absolute blinkered thinking doesn’t have any place in PR. Keep things in prospective
– Contingency plan – at least think about what ifs and try to reduce risk of catastrophic failure
– Never leave home without business cards, every social or business meeting is a prospect
– Make like a union – get organised. Most people have a circle of contacts including work of about 150 people. With PR its is much wider (I’m up to 3,500+), together with juggling diaries, keeping track of prospects, doing client work and managing a multi-client work balance thing. My mentor Kirsty swore by lists and Excel spreadsheet workplans. I am a great believer in the Palm PDA, iCalender, iSync, critical path analysis and the use of project managment software (I recommend Intellisync Project Desktop). Archive business cards as they are a great visual cue to jog the memory even when you have gone electronic
– If you have more bad days than good days in a three month period, fix the situation, if you can’t change the people around you, change the people around you by resigning and go to a better role