The uncanny parallels of PR and parenting

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Last month, my colleague Nathan wrote a great blog about the marginal gains philosophy which has underpinned British Cycling’s phenomenal success. He explored how this approach could be applied to businesses in pursuit of their own peak performance.

It got me thinking about where I might find unexpected inspiration and transferable learning and I happened upon the uncanny parallels between PR and parenthood.

My two worlds – professional marketing and communications director and amateur (no qualifications yet secured) mum of two small children – collided! Both roles require effective and creative communications, an ability to continually think on your feet and respond to the unexpected, and a clear focus on the end game* (*in PR terms your SMART objectives and in parenting terms think daily survival).

Here are just two of my top tips for PR and / or parenthood; a handy ‘one-stop shop’ for those challenged with delivering both:

1. Know your audience & hone your messages

Aristotle said: ‘The fool tells me his reasons; the wise man persuades me with my own’ and he was quite right. PR is most definitely not about pushing out one-way sales messages. From the outset of any PR campaign, it is critical that you define, understand and really get under the skin of your target audience. What makes them tick? What motivates and interests them?

As per Aristotle’s sage advice, put yourself in their shoes: what are the messages that will really engage, inspire and convince? Quite simply, the better you know and understand your audience, the more effective your PR activity will be. Shaping your key messages will be much easier too. Ensure that they are concise, compelling, simple and, most importantly, tailored to your target audience.

Parenting requires the same ability to consider with care who you are communicating with and then adapt the message accordingly. ‘Go and brush your teeth’ is always met with deaf ears in my house. But, if I put myself in Clark’s finest patent leather T-bars and try again: ‘If you brush your teeth by the time I get upstairs, you’ll get a sticker’ – it works a treat every time!

2. Prepare for every eventuality

Alongside a proactive PR plan, it’s really important that you consider what might go wrong and how you would handle it. Your organisation may not require a bible-sized crisis communications plan but every business could and should take some time to anticipate and prepare for a potentially damaging scenario. Logistical and practical crisis plans should always have a well thought out communications component.

But where to start? Firstly identify the potential crisis situations and revisit point number 1 – who are your audiences and stakeholders, what are the key messages and what are the most appropriate platforms through which to communicate effectively (traditional media, ecomms, social media, etc.)?

Next – and perhaps most importantly – you need to pinpoint your spokespeople, make sure they have the right skills and knowledge and, critically, ensure that they are fully briefed and trained where required. Finally, it’s really important that everyone understands and sticks to the protocols and plans in place. A crisis situation is not the time to test out new tactics.

Once again the same rules apply in parenthood. For example, a small child in a long, boring wedding service is a situation that has clear and present danger; a disaster waiting to happen. Anticipate and get on the front foot. Communicate with your stakeholders (pre-warn pew-companions and brief the husband / grandparents), provide the necessary training (try the ‘raisins and a pop-up book combo’ technique first, then exit back right if required) and when necessary implement the plan with military precision.

So there you have it, all those years of professional PR training and experience have inadvertently provided me with the essential skills to survive motherhood* (*still not convinced it makes me an expert).

For more sound PR and communications advice, insight or support, please get in touch with us at NGI Solutions; for parenting guidance, I’d recommend Super Nanny!

Post by Kathie Wilcox, Marketing & Communications Director

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