Monday, October 4, 2010
Your Career and You: "It's Okay to Change Things"
We had a meeting of the Curry College Public Relations Student Association last week with guest speaker Whytnee Bush, Events & Media Coordinator for Boston Harborfest.
Whytnee is an up-and-coming PR superstar who came into the field somewhat by accident and discovered to her delight...and to mine as a Director of the world-renowned organization...that she loves the challenges of nonprofit public relations.
She shared her experiences getting started in an organization that, for going on 30 years, has been attracting nearly two million visitors annually to Boston from around the globe for a week's worth of family-oriented, affordable entertainment and education.
Advice flowed fast, furious and factually, with attendees chiming in with questions to learn more about actually getting a start in public relations. One recommendation, in particular, resonated with me and gave me the idea for this posting.
Among her "lessons learned," Whytnee advised listeners to "be willing to change things if you think you have a better idea." She followed up with examples of how she had revamped the news releases that were sent out regularly and often by Harborfest to the media.
"They obviously had not been updated in years," she said. "Interns working at Harborfest just plugged in new dates or other information but didn't do anything to the basic copy. I rewrote just about every one to make them sound more 'fresh.'"
The end result? An increase in media interest and use of the materials in publicity about Boston Harborfest.
While this advice from a "junior" practitioner might cause some of my more "traditional" colleagues to swoon, I am totally behind the concept. Something might not be "broken," but it very likely could be improved with a little tinkering.
I did this as an intern myself. Back in the dark ages, I was assigned to the US Army Training and Doctrine Command's Editorial Branch to get some experience editing training materials.
One step of the editing process required that we calculate reading levels for individual manuals, and I noticed right off the bat that my more experienced colleagues were painstakingly creating columns of numbers and then transcribing calculations onto a second piece of paper...a long, drawn-out process.
Being somewhat "labor-averse," I decided that there had to be an easier way, and I experimented with a couple of templates into which I simply plugged numbers and performed calculations. It was the same amount of adding and multiplying, but the process was more orderly and less likely to produce errors.
End result? When I completed my assignment with the Editorial Branch, the commander presented me with a letter of commendation citing my proactive approach to simplifying reading level calculations...that was now an official part of the editing process.
I didn't ask for permission. I simply looked at what was there and identified a simpler, more effective way of accomplishing the task.
This is one thing I try to instill in the minds of my Communication students at Curry College...that it really is okay to be proactive and change things.
I'm not advocating going in willy-nilly and trashing everything that's ever been done. But I am championing the idea of questioning the status quo. Just because they've "done it that way forever" doesn't mean it's the most effective or efficient way.
Experiment on your own time with your own concept of how something could be done more quickly or easily. Once you've proven to yourself that it can be done your new-and-improved way, propose it to your supervisor...or try it out on a colleague to get his or her feedback.
Bottom line...change truly is good, as long as it's done with thought and consideration for the results. "It's okay to change things!"
"God, give us grace to accept with serenity the things that cannot be changed, courage to change the things which should be changed, and the wisdom to distinguish the one from the other."
Reinhold Neibuhr, "The Serenity Prayer"