Be Reliable

One day last week I was stuck in an all day meeting.  Sitting at a conference table, eyes not on me but I certainly had to behave.  I could sneak a look at my phone every now and then, but for the most part I had to be good.  (Some of you were quite entertaining during my hiatus — thank you.)
Oddly enough there were also no computers that I could use in the building.  That’s about as far off the grid as I like to go.
At one point in the meeting I got a Direct from a close twitter-friend (I won’t name her here since she’d likely blush for the rest of the day, but most of probably know who I’m referring to.  If not, D me.)
Anyway, the message itself had a link pointing to a ‘security’ problem with my identity.
Explanation: For those of you who don’t know, my real identity is a very close secret.  There’s a small handful of followers/friends who know my real first name and they don’t know who else knows it and know not to begin using it with me in conversation.
That is the cause of all the masked events, etc.
I do take this seriously, going so far as to have separate cell phones, email accounts, even paypal accounts for my identities (more on how to maintain a secret identity in a future post).  When necessary I have other smoke & mirrors to pull out if I need a ‘real’ person to exist.
Anyway, obviously I was in a bind, and while I do have exit strategies for almost any fiasco, being stuck in a meeting wasn’t part of any of those plans (it is now).
Arms crossed, looking down while typing I asked this person drop a note to the person who could fix it.  Certainly an odd request to begin with.
Within 5 minutes of my request I got a note that she would.
Less than 20 minutes after that I got a CC of the email sent.
Less than 40 minutes after that I got a Fwd of the reply saying it had been handled.
I stopped sweating.
The point of this post (besides so much navel gazing we all do on our blogs)?  And “Is there a PR discussion in here?  It’s tagged ‘PR’ Cog…get to it.”
This person, who I consider a real friend, not only let me know about the problem, but was able and willing to help handle….no make that singlehandedly handle it when I was in a bind — all in just over an hour.
Not only had she proven herself a good person and trustworthy in the past, but this went above and beyond – this is someone I know is reliable and can depend on in nearly any situation and someone I would go out on a limb for myself.
Can we all say the same thing?
How many unanswered emails are in your inbox?  I’ve got at least 3 I know of in my PR Cog account, and 2-3 more I need to initiate.
Through your career, how often have you not called someone back on time (perhaps because the client told you to dodge or because it was a small outlet).  Did you apologize afterwards?
When was the last time you (either on your own or to cover for the boss) pushed back on a deadline for a “barely honest” reason?
How many weeks have you been saying, “I’ll get to it later this week” to something started 3 weeks earlier?
We’re in a business where the client’s time is money (and possibly a few hits), the journalist’s time is coverage, and our own time is not ours from 9-5 (or whatever hours you work).
The best parts of this –
There’s no experience required to do it, or teach it.  Everyone from the intern to the CEO can master it and teach it to the other.
There’s no learning curve — you can begin today and if you screw up, start over.
It’s not a zero sum game — we can all do it and win without taking anything away from each other.
It works in all sectors, at all agencies, and you can take it with you without it taking up space in a cardboard box.
Do the hacks on your call list know they’ll get a callback?  The client an answer that’s not a dodge? The intern their shoes back? Once those members of our audience stop considering us reliable we’re of minimal use to them.  In this quickly changing time and tone of our industry there are a few things th

One day last week I was stuck in an all day meeting.  Sitting at a conference table, eyes not on me but I certainly had to behave.  I could sneak a look at my phone every now and then, but for the most part I had to be good.  (Some of you were quite entertaining during my hiatus — thank you.)

Oddly enough there were also no computers that I could use in the building.  That’s about as far off the grid as I like to go.

At one point in the meeting I got a Direct from a close twitter-friend (I won’t name her here since she’d likely blush for the rest of the day, but most of probably know who I’m referring to.  If not, D me.)

Anyway, the message itself had a link pointing to a ‘security’ problem with my identity.

Explanation: For those of you who don’t know, my real identity is a very close secret.  There’s a small handful of followers/friends who know my real first name and they don’t know who else knows it and know not to begin using it with me in conversation.

That is the cause of all the masked events, etc.

I do take this seriously, going so far as to have separate cell phones, email accounts, even paypal accounts for my identities (more on how to maintain a secret identity in a future post).  When necessary I have other smoke & mirrors to pull out if I need a ‘real’ person to exist.

Anyway, obviously I was in a bind, and while I do have exit strategies for almost any fiasco, being stuck in a meeting wasn’t part of any of those plans (it is now).

Arms crossed, looking down while typing I asked this person drop a note to the person who could fix it. Certainly an odd request to begin with.

  • Within 5 minutes of my request I got a note that she would.
  • Less than 20 minutes after that I got a CC of the email sent.
  • Less than 40 minutes after that I got a Fwd of the reply saying it had been handled.
  • I stopped sweating.

The point of this post (besides so much navel gazing we all do on our blogs)?  And “Is there a PR discussion in here?  It’s tagged ‘PR’ Cog…get to it.”

This person, who I consider a real friend, not only let me know about the problem, but was able and willing to help handle….no make that singlehandedly handle it when I was in a bind — all in just over an hour.

Not only had she proven herself a good person and trustworthy in the past, but this went above and beyond – this is someone I know is reliable and can depend on in nearly any situation and someone I would go out on a limb for myself.

Can we all say the same thing?

  • How many unanswered emails are in your inbox?  I’ve got at least 3 I know of in my PR Cog account, and 2-3 more I need to initiate.
  • Through your career, how often have you not called someone back on time (perhaps because the client told you to dodge or because it was a small outlet).  Did you apologize afterwards?
  • When was the last time you (either on your own or to cover for the boss) pushed back on a deadline for a “barely honest” reason?
  • How many weeks have you been saying, “I’ll get to it later this week” to something started 3 weeks earlier?

We’re in a business where the client’s time is money (and possibly a few hits), the journalist’s time is coverage, and our own time is not ours from 9-5 (or whatever hours you work).

The best parts of this –

  • There’s no experience required to do it, or teach it.  Everyone from the intern to the CEO can master it and teach it to the other.
  • There’s no learning curve — you can begin today and if you screw up, start over.
  • It’s not a zero sum game — we can all do it and win without taking anything away from each other.
  • It works in all sectors, at all agencies, and you can take it with you without it taking up space in a cardboard box.

Do the hacks on your call list know they’ll get a callback?  The client an answer that’s not a dodge? The intern their shoes back? Once those members of our audience stop considering us reliable we’re of minimal use to them.  In this quickly changing time and tone of our industry there are a few things that are still completely under our control — this is one of them — and we owe it to our audience and industry.

2 thoughts on “Be Reliable”

  1. Absolutely spot on! Those of us in PR and social media talk all the time about getting our clients, our agency or for many, ourselves, out in front of people and key influencers, I really think one of the biggest things that gets lost is the idea and notion of being there for someone – a reporter, client, boss, friend, etc. – when you say you will be, and very often even when it’s not requested of you, and stepping up and doing whatever it is you can to make a situation work.

    So many see social media now as a way to quickly attain some buzz and notereity around their brand or persona, but very few take the time to realize that it requires an incredible amount of time, dedication, foresight and honest-to-goodness hard work to make those great results last and progress toward something better. If you’re not willing to do all of that back-end work – to be reliable not only to yourself, but to those you are working so hard for – then really, what is the point of doing it? If it’s to stroke your ego, there are probably better and more illustrious ways to accomplish that.

    Really, an excellent, excellent read for all of us in PR and social media as we continue to deal with ever-increasing demands on our time and resources.

    Keith Trivitt
    @KeithTrivitt

  2. While I’m not perfect, I made a point very early in my career to make email replies a number 1 priority, nothing sits in my inbox. I treat reporters’ calls with the same respect. If I can’t get them what I need I let them know there will be a delay and apologize. These “little” gems of knowledge were also parlayed to every intern I trained, and I hope they remember to follow these golden rules. PR people that aren’t responsive give all the rest of us a bad name. Nice post Cog!

  3. The former journalist in me would not dream of letting a reporter down, no matter how small the outlet. A hit is the best thing, so I’ll do almost anything to get that hit.

    In fact, 16 months ago, I drove to a city that is about one-half hour from here trying to get information that a local reporter needed to do a story about one of our clients. The person I needed to get the information from was not a client at the time, merely working with our client on a project. She was so impressed with my dedication to getting our client’s message out, she is now a better client than the one on whose behalf I was working 16 months ago.

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