I gave my “Intro to Mass Communication” and “Principles of PR” classes at Curry College writing assignments at the beginning of the workweek (Monday) with the instructions that the work was to be turned in at the end of the workweek (Friday).
And the work was to be handed in in class…already printed out…on paper.
Now I have to remind my readers that I teach undergraduate Communication courses at Curry and oversee the Public Relations Concentration as a full-time faculty member. I also am a part-time Visiting Lecturer in the graduate Organizational and Professional Communication area at Regis College. Each opportunity has its benefits…and limitations.
Well, I was at the seven-emailed-paper count on Friday with, as usual, easily a half-dozen or more missing in action…lost in the ether presumably…or the cat ate the computer…or something.
Sunday evening…as with most evenings…I turned in around midnight after one last check of my various email accounts and social media platforms.
Signed on again this morning at 6 and…lo and behold!…an email awaited with a “sorry I’m late” subject-line.
The young fellow who perpetrated this misdemeanor is going to be hurt, baffled, miffed, and a host of other emotional sensations when he gets his paper back this afternoon with a barely-passing grade. (For the record, I’m giving him a “D” because what he wrote is reasonably well done. But this is a communication course, and communication in my world is a combination of clear and coherent presentation of thoughts and ideas and meeting established deadlines…it’s business, not playschool.)
But this (not unusual) incident reminded me of innumerable similar events back in the day when I was a public relations professional representing a variety of employers and/or clients.
As the saying starts, “If I had a nickel for every (fill in your own description here)…”
How many times have I (you?) said to a boss or client, “Before you talk with such-and-such reporter, let me go over the message points with you and give you some background on that reporter”?
And how many corresponding times have you had your boss or your client casually say to you later in the week, “Oh, yeah, I had a great conversation with such-and-such reporter yesterday. He(she) asked a couple of tricky questions, but I handled it okay. The story’s running tomorrow.”
Sometimes I had the feeling I was representing a nursery of adolescent chimpanzees.
I also sometimes feel that anyone who thinks he or she wants to work in public relations should be required by law to take “Patience 101” before being permitted to enter the field.
I know a lot of this sounds whiny, and it probably is. I also know that, with a couple of rare instances, I’ve been blessed with bosses or clients who listened to me…sometimes a little too obediently…and consulted before connecting.
What to do?
Sorry…there’s not a magic potion to solve this problem. But (as you may have noticed if you’ve read any of my previous posts for this blog or for the others I contribute to (PRSAY, Waxing Unlyrical, PR 2.0Strategies), I’m a story-teller. So I, for one, always have a story to relate to my boss/client about a similar situation that went badly because someone chose to “fly solo.”
Sometimes I got his or her attention; sometimes not. But at least I knew I had fulfilled that side of my responsibility as public relations counsel…I had provided professional advice based on experience.
It was the other side’s choice whether or not to “follow instructions.”