Searching for that “job well done” feeling

March 5, 2010

When I was a print journalist, the exhilaration of landing a front-page story or scooping a competing newspaper was my daily buzz. You were never absolutely sure that you had won the day’s battle until you ran down to the convenience store and bought the first editions of the local newspapers.

By quickly flipping through the pages, you instantly knew if you had won or lost. You also knew that you had a few hours to enjoy any success. You could see where the story might go during the day that was just beginning. Soon, it would be time to start reporting again. 

So how do we experience such exhilarating moments as PR professionals these days?

Some folks are addicted to industry awards. Others love to see their name in the trade press, detailing how they won the big RFP or recapping how they handled the crisis.

Instant gratification can still be achieved, including through the first-day impressions garnered by the product launch or the appearance of that top-tier feature story that took three months to land. Many ex-journalists find professional satisfaction in these outcomes.

For me, the backslapping “job well done” feeling as a daily reporter now only comes in the form of a phone call, e-mail or conversation with a happy client or boss.

Is it embarrassing to admit that you like to hear a heartfelt compliment or a sincere thank you when it’s deserved? Perhaps, but I bet that many of you would.

Praise has been hard to come by lately. After a tough year working harder than ever in a business where outcomes are often intentionally murky, it’s exhilarating to hear that you have exceeded the expectations of someone who has been in the trenches with you.

If you did not experience that feeling as much as you would have liked in 2009, then allow me to offer four paths for those in search of more praise this year:

  1. Spend less time pitching traditional top-tier media. As the ranks of the establishment media dwindle, it makes sense to reduce the energy devoted to traditional media relations. Focus on creating relationships with freelancers and social media influencers who are more likely to have the time, attention, interest and space to listen to and tell the story of your client or your company.
  2. Train your company and your clients to stop thinking of social media as a “strategy.” Worried that they were missing something big in 2009, a lot of companies paid a lot of money to consultants to tell them how to “do social media.”
    Those of us who lived through the arrival and assimilation of the fax machine, the cell phone, the Web site, hyperlinks, e-mail and instant messaging can recognize social media for what it is — the evolution of new tools for communication and influence. “Do social media” if it advances your strategy. Otherwise, don’t.
  3. Find ways to engage social or policy issues that are important to your customers. Help your client or company stand for something that makes a difference within the ecosystem of its business. People respect and admire companies or organizations that can see beyond themselves. Figure out how your enterprise connects on a very human level with its stakeholders. Showcase the positive contribution that it makes beyond direct and indirect economic impact, or the mere pursuit of profit.
  4. Imagine that there are no restraints on how to tell the story of your client or your company. Decide what you want to say, then say it effectively any way you want — in print, on video, online, over the phone or through direct contact. Storytelling is now in your hands. The proliferation of channels and tools has made self-publishing one of the best strategic communication options available to any enterprise. The walls that traditionally stood between you and your publics are coming down. You now have the opportunity to bring your story to life as you wish and to deliver it immediately to your target audiences.

After a year in which compliments (verbal or financial) were hard to come by and a constant state of anxiety made the positives hard to spot, it makes sense to reset expectations about what constitutes “winning” and the exhilaration of a job well done. Success, whether we like it or not, is now measured in minutes.

The thrill is not gone. It just arrives differently.

Ed Cafasso
A member of PRSA's Corporate Communications Section, Ed Cafasso is a managing director in the corporate and financial practice for Burson-Marsteller and the agency's Boston market leader.


Judy Meredith says:

Really really helpful. Thanks

March 9, 2010

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