Many of us first heard about the concept of the “naughty chair” on a reality television show called Supernanny. The discipline technique was utilized by families, under the guidance of expert nanny Jo Frost, to get out of control children back to their center. The misbehaving child would be told to go to the chair for a certain amount of time based on their age. Later, the child would apologize, get a hug and kiss from their mom or dad and be on their way.
Similarly, those of us in the public relations industry often find ourselves in need of a “PR naughty chair;” a place where we could put clients who have lost their cool to calm down, help them get some much-needed perspective and then give them a pat on the back. If only it were that easy.
So, what does it take to land in the “PR naughty chair?” Below are a few of the infractions we wish we could call a time-out on:
- For Crying Out Loud – It’s not ok to fly off the handle, especially publicly. As the police warn, “Anything you say can and will be used against you.” It’s a small media world, so when in doubt, take a deep breath and keep your trap shut. Or, better yet, have your PR spokesperson do the finessing.
- Making Like Kanye – Ranting on social media and starting a fight from behind the cozy confines of your computer is also off-limits. Consider your virtual image to be an extension of your public face. If you are the head of an organization and key spokesperson for it, your actions are a reflection on the entire organization, so think twice.
- Going “Off the Record” – Repeat after me: there’s no such thing as “off the record.”
- Crickets – If a reporter reaches out on deadline, and it happens with a media outlet, whether it’s a major daily or a hyperlocal weekly, please make yourself available. Being inaccessible (imagine the sound of crickets) when it matters most can ruin a wonderful opportunity. Worse, you may not get it again.
- Being in a Bubble – If you’re going to invest the time, energy and funds to work with a PR firm, remember that we’re partners. If you fail to update us on your news, good or bad, you’re not going to make the most of the engagement. Similarly, if we have to chase you down, we’re using valuable time that we’d rather spend pitching, writing and… well, you get the idea.
- Getting Shady – There’s nothing more embarrassing than hearing that the client whose behalf you’re reaching out on has failed to pay its vendors. Believe me, membership organizations and ad reps talk and it’s not helpful to your image. As for your PR agency, it, too, prefers to spend its time helping you, not sorting out account receivables.
- Marsha, Marsha, Marsha Syndrome – We know you’re special and that you want attention, but when you’re working with the media it’s more about the give than the get; the trend than the company; and the reader than the expert.
- Just Saying “No” – Putting the brakes on initiatives, in spite of counsel from the professionals you’re paying for assistance, is not only unwise, it’s also counterproductive. Be open-minded to new approaches and creative ideas, even if they are out of the norm. That’s where a true expert shines and how you can set your business apart from the crowd.
- Media Stalking – Nobody likes a stalker. Not in relationships and not in the workplace. So refrain from adding the person who has just interviewed you to your sales e-mail blasts. That’s a no-no. Similarly, if you’re working with a reporter or editor, once he has what he needs or you’ve shared an idea, back off. If he needs you, he’ll call or email you. And when he does, see the tip about hearing crickets above and be sure to reply in a timely fashion.
Now, get up out of that chair and go play! It’s no fun to sit it out.