Take a Breath

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By Jason Ledder, VP/Media Relations, R&J Public Relations

The genesis of this blog post came during a recent drive to the airport while I was heading to New Orleans for a friend’s bachelor party (rough life, I know). In the car, my head was spinning with details — of tasks and pitches, that were complete or near complete, projects that had not yet started, preferred dining locations in New Orleans, my wife’s new job, the house, etc. when I realized that I had not sent the customary email to the entire office reminding them of my travel details and dates.  This seemingly insignificant incident —  a tiny formality, really – ended up putting a lot of things into perspective for me.

Using the “speech to text” capabilities on my phone, I quickly fired off a note to all R&J employees.  Taking only a cursory glance at the screen to fix any glaring misspelled words, I was content with the completion of my task. When I boarded the plane I checked my email and reread a few blabbering lines, written by some illiterate schlub who sent it to the entire office.  Not only did I not fully correct the misspelled words, I added a few new ones in for fun (that is the only reason I could create in my head).  What’s the big deal, right? It is just a silly little internal email about being out of the office for a few days. Wrong. Dead wrong. This was one shining example of why we all need an absolute dedication to quality and a commitment to take a breath before moving forward.

I could conjure up a million excuses for why this email went the way it did, but they would be only loosely based in reality. The truth is I was rushing and just mailed it in, literally. The worst part of this was the hypocritical mirror staring back at me from a commuter jet/coach seat.  I get down on our staff about doing this exact same thing and here I was, in all my literary glory, not paying them any respect.

Many things ran through my head as we taxied back from the jetway and I started making notes about what kind of example I was setting. About an hour in, I realized that this was far more than a practice-what-you-preach, cathartic experience; this was the start of a mea culpa blog post that would serve as my living reminder moving forward.

My mea culpa (or, what sloppy work says to the world):

  • I’m sorry that I did not value my audience.  In this case, my audience was my internal clients. Not only was I not showing respect, I was clearly demonstrating how unprepared I was. I was sending reminder emails of my absence on my way to the airport.  Really? While this trip was on everyone’s outlook calendars, it just screamed last second thoughts of ill preparation.
  • I’m sorry that I did not value my own work product. Everything you send to a client, internal or external, represents your personal work product. Ask yourself; is this the best representation of your strengths or value? If the answer isn’t absolutely yes, what image are you portraying?
  • I’m sorry that I acted like a child. Long gone are my days of Mrs. Walsh (7th grade English teacher) correcting everything from my penmanship to my sentence structure.  You are a professional.  Act like it and be responsible for your work. If other people need to take time out of their day to double, or triple, check your work, what value are you bringing to your company? How do you ever expect to grow or receive more responsibility/money/titles/etc?
  • I’m sorry that I was lazy.  Contrary to popular belief, you can be rushed and lazy at the same time.  Sending a two line email before it was ready, no matter what was happening in your life, just shows the world that you were too lazy to re-read it again. 
  • I’m sorry I am unreliable.  One of my biggest take-aways from this is how it reflects on my reliability.  If you can’t trust me to be on top of my own personal stuff, in this scenario, personal travel, how can I be expected to take the lead on anything with any sense of confidence?
  • Lead by example.  PR is an image-conscience business and everything is a representation of two things: your client and yourself. If you don’t respect that, you’re not meant for this job.   Get your stuff straight.

I have been in this industry for 15 years and have found four little things that can change your world.  They are a smile, a hand shake, a thank you and an apology.   I’m hoping this helps me remember the last one.

In the end, what’s the real lesson?  I see two.  It is ok, even a better choice, to stop, take a breath, recheck your work and move on only when it is your best.  The second of course don’t try to email and drive!

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