Public Relations Tactics

May the Force Be With You: 12 Rules From a PR Yoda

December 2, 2015

[lucas film/sunset boulevard/corbis]
[lucas film/sunset boulevard/corbis]

Secret, shall I tell you? Grand Master of Jedi Order am I.
Won this job in a raffle, I did, think you?
How did you know, how did you know, Master Yoda?
Master Yoda knows these things. His job it is.
— Yoda to Luke Skywalker

My PR light saber retired with me two years ago. Successful I was; Yoda I was not.

But over 45 years, I advanced from PR flunky to senior vice president, prospering in our profession (he said, modestly), thanks to 12 rules of work and life, which I will share with you in honor of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” opening in theaters on Dec. 18. Others who follow them will be more likely to have The Force with them. The truth, I speak.

• Show integrity. Your most important choice is to be trustworthy. Call it what you want — honor, honesty, truthfulness, reliability or consistency of character — but living it means that you will be respected and esteemed. Integrity will define your high value to others, your happiness and your peace of mind.

• Swim against the tide. Contra-trend personally and professionally. If everyone uses social media thank yous, do yours face-to-face. Surprise by differentiating. The method of communication is less important than if it works and how you stand out.

• Be an owner. Someone who rents anything is less committed than an owner. Become a job owner — not a job renter. Don’t be satisfied with “average” or “above average.” Success means doing more. If you set your goals higher than what’s asked of you, then you will be counted on day-in and day-out as the go-to pro on any team.

• Choose the harder right. On day one of my first PR job, my boss and eventual mentor said, “Never frost a rotten cookie. No one will be fooled after the first bite.” Whether you’re facing a seminal crisis or sticky internal politics, events never improve by diffusing the facts. The West Point Cadet Prayer is correct: “Choose the harder right over the easier wrong, and never be content with a half-truth when the whole can be won.”

• Be thorough. No matter how top-notch you consider yourself, you will be even more so by honing every opportunity to shine. A close friend of Winston Churchill, one of the world’s most persuasive communicators, said, “Winston has spent the best years of his life writing impromptu speeches.” Meticulously prepare for every meeting, think ahead and rehearse every remark and painstakingly review every communication.

• See the big picture. “Force multiplier” is a military term for adding an element that dramatically improves the chances of success: The effectiveness of a fighter with just a sword can be multiplied with a modern weapon. The equivalent for us? Thinking creatively and big. Can you multiply a winning idea by tweaking it or exposing it to various and unexpected audiences or stakeholders? It’s the difference between a strategist and a tactician.

• Be nice. Ever wake up and say, “I think I’ll ruin someone’s day today?” Yet, that’s exactly what many do, even if inadvertently. Public relations is a relationship-building and sustaining profession. Your behaviors form your personal reputation. Create a “do unto others” plan and back it up with daily discipline.

• Know when to hold ’em. Creative forces of persuasion and presentation are at the core of our profession. When you find what works, don’t get bored with a winner; stick with it until it starts to fail. If you need a creative outlet, then find one that doesn’t damage what is producing results. Base decisions on both qualitative and quantitative evidence.

• Remain loyal. Disloyalty means detachment and the pathway to failure. Remember the old truism: Respect is earned, honesty is appreciated, trust is gained and loyalty is returned. Do more than your part to uphold your half. Employment is a two-way covenant. If the other side fails, then move on, but be a consummate professional in how you do this.

• Stick together. Don’t dislike people who are smarter, more creative and more imaginative than you are. Hire them. If you’re looking for work, then the same applies: Associate with contagious qualities and achievements. Eagles don’t flock with turkeys.

• Demand high standards. Be your own toughest critic. Never give in to being “good enough” in any matter — big or small. Set an example for everyone around you. Be accountable for your work and, at least weekly, take a few moments to soul-search about what’s going right, what isn’t and how it could all be better.

• See opportunity everywhere. With every positive or negative event — from news tidbits to big trends — ask yourself, “What about this could be an advantage to my work, goals or organization/client?” Discipline yourself to study the ideas, products and messaging of others. If something strikes a chord, even without an obvious immediate application, then save it for when it can help.

Before dismissing these notions as the vainglorious ramblings of a has-been, remember that Yoda was no spring chicken.

In “The Empire Strikes Back,” when Yoda challenges him to use the Force to lift his X-Wing from the swamp, Luke unenthusiastically replies, “All right. I’ll give it a try.”

Yoda’s classic response is also mine: “Do, or do not. There is no try."

Paul J. Taylor, APR
Paul J. Taylor, APR, is a consultant and author, focusing on public relations, nonprofit governance and philanthropy. He is former senior vice president of South Shore Hospital in Weymouth, Mass., and was the board chair of the Academy of Hospital Public Relations before it merged with PRSA’s Health Academy. Email: pjtaylor7x@gmail.com.

Comments

Lisa Jansen says:

Great rules to live by! These aren't just good marketing/pr strategy, they are also good as a life strategy in general.

April 13, 2017

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