My PR failures: What have they taught me?

Working in an industry that's often voted one of the most stressful, PR has opened me up to my share of failures, and I'm certain that there are more to come.

Where would we be if we did a runner after our first failure? asks Rebecca Peel
Where would we be if we did a runner after our first failure? asks Rebecca Peel

One of Google’s eight pillars of innovation is ‘Never Fail to Fail’. We need to accept that there is no innovation without mistakes. Failure isn’t defeat; it’s a stepping stone to success.

Below are some of my career ‘failures’ to date, and what I’ve learned from them:

Failure to promote my professional brand

PR is about boosting profiles - yet I couldn’t do that for myself until around a year ago. I regularly got feedback from interviews that I didn’t talk positively about myself enough.

When the question "Why should we hire you?" comes up, I tanked my chances by being way too modest.

Interviews are where we need to toot our own horn - but it’s rare we actually do this.

Got nominated for an award, got national coverage or managed to get promoted quickly? Tell them.

No-one wants to leave an interview after telling a future employee that your best achievement was making the office laugh at a joke about Bake Off, but here we are.

After all, why would someone want to hire you if you don’t know your own strengths?

Failure to ask questions

One of my first ever PR tasks was to write a blog on behalf of a client that a journalist had agreed to publish.

The topic was radio frequency, which I know as much about as today’s kids know about dial-up.

I didn’t want to look like I didn’t know what I was doing, so did a bit of research, rushed it, and the end result was, unsurprisingly, a pretty poor article that didn’t portray the client in the expert light it should have. They asked us to rewrite it or bin it.

The lesson? Ask questions. I knew I was a good writer, but that doesn’t mean I can write about the world without the foundations to back it up.

Research as much as you can, and always agree on the angle of the content first.

Failure to say 'no'

When you put time and effort into a press release, it’s disheartening and embarrassing to have it ignored by the media.

When this happened in a previous role, I realised that I’d been a "yes man" to clients.

Their news was news to them and I’d agreed to send it out, but it wasn’t news to anybody else.
The point? They employ us for a reason - we’re the experts.

If your intuition is saying that something isn’t going to work - push back. They’re the ones paying, but we’re the ones expected to deliver results.

It’s easy to sulk when work doesn’t go to plan.

But do you think that huge content pieces, PR stunts and product launches always go right the first time?

No, and that’s the point. If everybody ran after their first failure - we’d have no telephone, Tesla, or, most importantly, Harry Potter.

Rebecca Peel is PR and outreach specialist at Hallam

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