Produced by the Blue Ridge Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America.
Last month’s newsletter focused on planning for the COVID-19 outbreak, but before we could even send it, the bottom fell out. My team and I were plunged into 80-hour work weeks as we retooled a major health system into a coronavirus fighting machine. Literally every initiative, aside from COVID-19, was powered down as we refocused all attention on our community’s response to the virus.
And we weren’t alone. Each of you has helped to transform your business or non-profit, your school system or university into a different mode of operations in the span of weeks. I’m out of breath just recounting the enormity of the changes we have all seen in the last six weeks.
Crisis has a way of helping people focus. It also has a way of bringing people together – even if they can’t be together. Our PR colleagues are no exception. The commitment I’ve seen in our municipal public information officers combined with the compassion and encouragement of other local communicators continues to be inspiring to me.
You are doing amazing work right now. Keep it up. Communicators are needed in this moment more than ever.
One for the money.
COVID-19 is here. What are some of the early lessons that communicators have learned? Blue Ridge Chapter Director at Large Jen Eddy is assembling a virtual panel representative of several different industries to discuss those lessons. This webinar is free to chapter members. Guests and students are $15. More information will be sent in a separate email soon.
Two for the show.
There will be silver linings from this crisis. One already apparent is our growing familiarity and acceptance of remote work and virtual meetings. I urge you to take advantage of these webinars, many of which are free or low cost.
April 21, 3 p.m. – National PRSA Professional Development Learning Seminar: Social Media and Effective Reputation Management
April 29, 12 p.m. – Our neighboring chapter in Richmond is featuring a webinar on “Things to Start Doing NOW To More Effectively Lead Your Team” with Ken Jacobs. (I’ve heard Ken speak; he’s excellent)
April 30, 3 p.m. -- National PRSA Professional Development Learning Seminar: It’s only a crisis if you panic.
Three to get ready.
Here are some quick ideas to help you grow professionally.
A wartime mentality is needed in this COVID-19 pandemic. See why author Robert Glazer thinks so. He makes a strong point in this article that sometimes leaders in crisis need to follow an old pilot’s rule: Aviate, Navigate, Communicate. It struck a chord with me. We as communicators want to our communications tucked and tied always. Sometimes it just isn’t possible; especially if you’re just trying to keep the plane in the air.
Vanity Fair tackled the White House’s “Go Everywhere” media strategy. Check it out.
Get your tissues for this one. As many crises as I’ve worked in my life, I’ve always kept an eye out for the helpers. Here are some helpers.
Four to go.
Each month, learn more about one of our members. We’d like to learn more about you. Here’s how it works. Since we’re running low on profiles this month, you’ll have to suffer through learning a bit more about me. Please, please, please submit your own profile. 😊
What was your best day as a communicator?
Like others have mentioned, my worst and best days have usually been back-to-back. While some of our work is glamorous and we’re out in front – like a grand opening celebration or delivering great news to a grateful public – a good amount of our work is done quietly and behind closed doors. I have found that work (that work that doesn’t win any awards) to be the most rewarding. I was asked to write an obituary once, following a tragic death. I didn’t know the person, but the young family was relying on me to capture their love for their family member. I wound up writing the piece on a 45-minute deadline in their home, as they grieved in an adjacent room. What a privilege. It’s an experience that has stuck with me over the years.
How did you find PR?
When I was a Roanoke College student, I was convinced I wanted to work in the music industry. I did internships at WPOC FM93.1 in Baltimore, Sony Music in Nashville and even convinced our Dean of Student Affairs to support an independent study project where I would produce, market and sell a classmate’s CD (remember them?). My summer in Nashville convinced me otherwise, but my independent study project allowed me to pitch our story to media outlets not just in Roanoke but in Baltimore and in Bangor, Maine (where my classmate was from). Everyone picked up the story, and it gave me confidence that I could do media relations. With that very limited experience, John Lambert Associates agreed to hire me after I graduated. My path has meandered since then, but I’ve always come back a strong focus on communications. I’ve never met a great leader who isn’t also a great communicator. Likewise, I’ve never met a great communicator who wasn’t also a great leader.
Did you try anything for the first time in the last year? What?
This will seem insignificant to many of you, but I’ve always wanted to learn how to tie a bowtie. One Saturday last fall, I spent an hour and a half sitting in front of YouTube trying to figure it out. I’m proud to say, I’ve pretty much nailed it now. I still can’t tie one in the dark, but it doesn’t take me an hour and a half to tie one either! That’s progress.
What is the most meaningful gift you’ve ever received? What did it mean to you?
Never underestimate the power of the written word, in the form of a handwritten letter. There’s something magical about a personal note of thanks or encouragement that transcends what could be posted on Facebook or typed in an email. The act of writing longhand says so much to the person receiving the note. I’ve been fortunate to receive many of these over the years and I save them to read every once in a while. One in particular that I remember was a note of encouragement from my father while I was in college. I had been through a difficult time, and somehow he knew the right words at the right timing. Now I try to offer the same to those in my life who might need encouragement themselves. Yes, it takes a lot of time to do it right. Yes, it’s always worth it.