Which got me thinking… what have I learned in more than two decades in PR? Here are 5 things that come to mind:
- Results Matter. Just because you’re a good person, doesn’t mean you will succeed. In business, don’t kid yourself, results matter. I’ve seen some ridiculous behavior over my career, and met some jerks along the way, but, in the end, if someone was really good at their job and delivered great results, that trumped everything else… and I’d happily work beside them
- Be Kinder Than Necessary. I’ve noticed that several people at Verizon have this saying posted in their workspace… and with good reason. All things being equal (and Steve Jobs notwithstanding), if two people are both producing good results – and one’s a jerk, and the other is a decent person who treats others with respect – the jerk always loses.
- Loyalty Matters. See above. Karma really exists. You don't succeed on your own, and along the way you and your co-workers have to have each other’s back. As a corollary, keep in mind that playing office politics is highly overrated. The rules change too quickly for anyone to sustain an advantage.
- Surprise People. My college-age daughter is getting all sorts of good (and expensive) career advice on how to make a good first impression, how to network, how to dress for business… but, honestly, when it comes to your career, this cliché is better advice: “It’s a marathon, not a sprint.” You don’t want to be like Robert Redford in “The Candidate”… win the election and then wonder, “What do I do NOW?” It’s simply more effective to be good at your job and surprise people along the way. Don’t ever let people pigeon-hole you… keep learning, keep changing… reinvent yourself. THAT’S good for your career, and it keeps life fun.
- PR Is Hard. One of the great business fallacies is that PR/comms is a “soft” career unlike, say, sales or engineering. Having worked with C-level executives for years, I can tell you that communications is their most effective leadership skill, and PR can build or kill a company quicker than the best sales team. To reference another great old movie, think of that scene in “The Godfather” – which, by the way, should be required viewing for anyone wanting to know how business really works – when Vito Corleone says, “A lawyer with his briefcase can steal more than 100 men with guns.”
Words, ideas and influence are always more powerful than guns. So, if you’re considering a career in PR, my final word of advice would be, “Let's be careful out there.”