Grandma looking through glasses

Public relations pearls of wisdom from grandma

Growing up in the south, you become accustomed to people using idioms to express how they feel or how a situation plays out. My late Grandma Moore had more country slang than you could shake a stick at (see how I did that). She wasn’t a scholar by today’s standards, but her no nonsense way of communicating has served me well in the industry of public relations. Here are six tips using some of my grandma’s pearls of wisdom.

  1. It’s not what you have, but how you keep it. – My grandmother grew up during the Great Depression and didn’t have a lot of fancy things, but the items she did have, she kept clean, orderly and organized. This little nugget of information can be applied to so many aspects of life, but especially PR and how business should be conducted. As PR representatives, our names are perhaps our most valuable asset. Even if you don’t have the resources of a large, global agency, there are things that smaller, more intimate shops can provide like: enhanced customer service, truly being a part of a client’s internal team, the ability to form trusted partnerships quickly, same day response to client requests and faster service due to decreased agency hierarchy.
  2. Don’t count your chickens before they’ve hatched. – Grandma would say this to me when I would look to the future and count on the “what ifs” or the uncertainties as a backup plan. She reminded me that nothing is certain and the only way to make it through hard times is to prepare. The same can be said, especially today, when you consider new business generation or keeping existing clients engaged and happy. Expect the good times, but prepare for the bad times.
  3. I knew him when he wore a straw hat to the Christmas tree. – This is a spin off from “you’re too big for your britches” or “don’t get above your raising.” Grandma said she knew many people who grew up with humble means only to turn into mean, vile people when they came into money. In other words, be genuine and who you are as a person and as a business. If you’re giving a pitch or talking to an editor, act professional, but be yourself and admit when you don’t know something by saying, “I’ll have to look into that further for you.” In my experience, if someone knows all the answers in an initial meeting, it means they’re not truly listening.
  4. If it can’t be done before 11pm, then it’s not worth doing. – This portion of grandma’s wisdom speaks to the elusive work life balance that we all try to achieve. I know there are times when we all have to put in extra hours to create a great final product, but taking time out to relax and contemplate your next steps can alleviate worry and doubt. Although grandma was talking more about going out on the town, so to speak, it is important to take time to enjoy life, family and friends, which will ultimately pay off in the long run.
  5. Hold it in the road. – Grandma would say this as you left her house and she actually meant it in the literal and figurative sense. Hold it (your car) in the road and be careful driving, as well as Hold it (your life) in the road and steer clear of bad things and bad people. As PR professionals and as agencies, we sometimes don’t have the luxury of turning away clients, but if we have a reputation of conducting business with clients who follow the rules and value our services and relationships, then those clients that don’t, won’t even approach us. If you’re intuitive (which most of us have to be in order to do what we do), then it doesn’t take long to size up a potential client and determine if they’ll be a good fit for you or your agency.
  6. This too shall pass. – Whenever I was going through a difficult situation, grandma would always remind me that nothing is forever. She told me to be strong and keep my eyes on my goals. In today’s business world, this little morsel of wisdom couldn’t be more applicable. If we as PR practitioners stay focused and continue to propel our clients to new levels of thinking, we not only help ourselves, but our industry.

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Brian Cockman