I’ve been fortunate to work with some amazing people and organizations during my association public affairs career, and learned new things from each of them. I’m happy to pass on a few bits of wisdom that have stuck with me.
No Empty Chair
Early in my public affairs career I worked for a charismatic supervisor who had a “no empty chair” philosophy. When our association was invited to represent our often-controversial industry via a media interview or speaker engagement, if we could make it work we would. Our members would be the topic of discussion no matter what, so he believed it was important to accept most invitations to encourage balance, rather than leave an “empty chair” where our industry’s information and perspective would be.
I still strive to provide input to reporters seeking comment, even when my organization isn’t commenting. I offer facts, point to websites, and suggest other sources who may be able to contribute to the story. As a PR professional, I view reporters as my customers; they have a job to do, and it’s my job to support their efforts to be thorough and accurate.
Better Done Than Perfect
A C-suite level association executive noticed my detail-oriented, perfectionist tendencies and passed on the advice once given to her: Better Done Than Perfect. While I still struggle with this one, I regularly remind myself that there will always be room for improvement, but putting something out in the world that’s “good enough” and then moving on to the next project is preferable to constantly tweaking the same document.
Not Everyone Understands Your Value
A boss who was also a mentor recognized that not everyone in our association—fellow staff, members, as well as outside stakeholders—recognized the value of investing in government relations activities; some thought that their part of the organization brought in the money, and GR just spent it, with no obvious ROI. So, she initiated proactive internal and external communications efforts to keep our constituencies informed on what the association’s GR staff was doing and more importantly, why it mattered. Those efforts included a bi-weekly newsletter I created and executed.
Subsequent supervisors have faced similar challenges, and together we came up with solutions to ensure our efforts to educate policymakers were understood and valued.
I’ll include other lessons in future blog posts. In the meantime, I’d love to hear from others: what valuable lessons have you picked up during your career?