Learning from defeat is a key facilitator to long-term victory

A few weeks ago, I found myself awake at 4am repeatedly refreshing my Web browser to find out if my client had won a "Best Of" award.

A few weeks ago, I found myself awake at 4am repeatedly refreshing my Web browser to find out if my client had won a "Best Of" award. They didn't, which left my client and I tired. However, it was an invaluable learning opportunity for everyone involved.

Awards and other external accolades are often viewed as the crowning achievement for an organization. However, rather than just being drivers of reputation, awards are potentially more valuable when examined in their context of driving business initiatives.  

Losing is a horrible feeling in any arena. Yet, as the Harvard Business Review wrote in April 2011, "Failure is inevitable and often out of our control. But we can choose to understand it, to learn from it, and to recover from it." 

PR pros are often credited by how we help clients cope with loss, but our true value comes in helping them understand their losses.

  • It's not you, it's me. As PR pros, we must first take our own temperature and assess how we are communicating our clients' strengths. What is being lost in the exchange between client, PR team, and public? Are we addressing the right public and influencers? Are we conveying the right message?
  • It's not me, it's you. Take off the rose-colored glasses and take a long look at the client. Are there issues overshadowing its successes? Management changes, internal upheaval, crisis and financial losses are all potential contributors of decreased reputation and valuation. It's key to examine how the client has been impacted by adversity.
  • It's a mad, crazy world. The world has changed and not everyone can keep up. Clients are facing never-before-seen levels of reporting expectations and regulation requirements. Are there new categories for evaluation to which the client is not measuring up? Are there mechanisms in place to identify these categories and execute on a plan to meet them? Consider this a wake-up call to better understand the industry and best practices of competitors and peers.

Losing offers a window to assess both ourselves and clients to understand what isn't hitting the mark. I have a biting memory of losing a grade-school spelling bee. I never became a master speller, but I can spell that losing word. In the long term, that's a win.

Brigid Milligan works in the corporate practice at Burson-Marsteller and is an adjunct media and film studies professor at Hunter College.

Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins

Already registered?
Sign in