WEIGHING OPTIONS: Avoiding Minefields

A dear friend was in the middle of what she thought were a bunch of set backs, both professional and personal. She described a set of circumstances that left feeling like my grandmother use to call, “A used hairball.”

I told my friend that it could have been worse. She could be condemned to sitting in a Winnebago on cross-country trip listening to Justin Bieber – the epitome of emptiness.

As a public relations and advertising specialist I find that we have a tendency to rescue clients from situations they create, only to be blamed for them later. Hopefully, what I’m going to say will be illustrative and helpful to people breaking into these industries. Colleague, we have to face forest fires, and metaphorically stamp them out while barefooted.

When confronting difficult situations, we must avoid mine-fields. Never make it worse, or let a problem fester. That is so hard to grasp when one wants to be the best in a profession. Always remember, a vat of spilled strudel and chocolate fondue makes quite a mess.

It is frustrating. But part of the job. It is what you sign up for. Often, though, problems are completely avoidable if people employ what is called applied logic. PR and advertising people aren’t supposed to be smart enough to understand this conceptually, but I do.

Recently I had to navigate through a minefield; problems not of my making. I ushered a client to an event that got her bundles of positive publicity. I expended a lot of capital by asking contacts to pose with her with smiley-face grins, handshakes, discussions of possible projects my client would benefit from, and so on. My client seemed fine with it, on the surface. I found out later she was not. As the day grew older, I witnessed a negative turn of character. Alicia-Sue Gomez  slowly became overwhelmed by the enormity of  being anything but a “Diva.”

Damn. She might as well have been a fire breathing dragon.

In an assured tone, she said, “It isn’t your fault daaarling. They’re to blame, daaaaarling.” She wasn’t absolving me of blame at all. But her behavior was totally at fault. Without going into detail, suffice to say as my oldest daughter once blurted in church about Eve an the apple: “Dang! She fracked up.”

The Alicia-Sue Gomez’s of the world will have every opportunity and a GPS to avoid the mess, but will step in it anyway. Worse, she’ll compound the mess by tracking it along the carpet. She always believes she is the boss.

Listen, we are blamed when things go wrong, but seldom congratulated when they go right. I see nothing wrong with being self-congratulatory, if nothing else, for encouragement sake. The mythical Alicia-Sue Gomez, certainly will always fail to see our value.

I tell my newbies, interns and new staff to be bold and point out mistakes that affect campaigns. Of course, I want them to acknowledge their own faults and correct them quickly. Our job is about minimizing damage – if we fail, a career or business will suffer.

Bernard A. McNealy, President 

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