What Happens When YOU #PRfail

You may have noticed a general pattern on this blog that, alongside great campaigns, I also like to highlight #PRfails.

Contrary to popular belief this is not because it’s enjoyable to chuckle at the downfall of others. If you do, you have a bad case of Schadenfraude and should get that seen to. Rather, it is because it’s so much less painful to learn from other people’s mistakes than to go through the torture of making them all yourself.

In fact I like to think there is a camaraderie among PR folk. We stick together and we stick up for each other, because we understand each other in a world that often misrepresents us.

However, it can be comforting, particularly on bad days, to read how others in the industry have made boo-boos, especially people that you look up to. This is why I really love the new section of the recently rebranded PR Week magazine entitled “My Biggest Gaffe”. It takes you through crisis communications, how a PRo dealt with the situation and more importantly, what they learned from it.

This week, I lived through my own “gaffe”. An oversight on sign-off with a commercial partner left me amending and then recalling a press release and photo that probably garnered my picture a place on every local news desk’s dart board. Granted, it wasn’t a huge crisis, and it wasn’t my job to sign-off, but I should have checked so it hurt nonetheless. It hurt more because I write this blog. Because sometimes putting yourself in a position like this means that people assume you think of yourself as a kind of expert. Which I don’t. But there’s one thing we know in PR, you can’t control what people think of you no matter how hard you try.

On the upside, I’ve learned a good lesson by analysing what went wrong, how I handled it and what I will do differently in future. I’ve also learned that damage to one’s ego is not the same as damage to a client or your work so it’s important to keep things in perspective.

People often assume that arrogance is a standard personality trait in the Public Relations industry. The hissy fits, in-fighting and explicitly competitive behaviour are testament to that. However, it might be worth remembering this old proverb and realising that it is not our pride when we succeed, but rather our humility when we fall, that will ultimately help us to be better: