Monday, July 16, 2012

Your Career and You: "Homework Time!"


Every once in a while (although it seems like more frequently these days) I get a message that either (a) sends cold chills up my spine or (b) baffles me. Or both.

Why?

Because the sender obviously spent less than a micro-second actually thinking about what he or she was asking.

My students at Curry College, where I ride herd over the undergraduate Public Relations Concentration and teach most of the PR courses, and at Regis College, where I teach part-time in the graduate Organizational and Professional Communication area, get this lecture a lot…and I’ll keep on hammering away.

Back to the “tipping point” (hats off to Malcolm Gladwell for this!): This morning, I received a tweet from someone claiming to be part of a PR firm.

At least that’s what he/she said.

No information available on this person’s Twitter page to give me a clue who this person is or where he/she is located.

Checked the website: “Under construction.”

Nonexistent on Facebook or LinkedIn so far as I can tell.

But…  (Insert dramatic background music (<=or click here!) …in your head!)

I also got a message asking for my email address so he/she could send me something.

Blue flashing lights and blaring alarms went off.

“What’s the big deal?” you ask.

I answer, “Google ‘Kirk Hazlett.’”

What’s the first thing that pops up?

It’s called “research,” my friends, and we do it…A LOT…in public relations.

Before we send off a pitch letter…or a news release…or an events calendar listing…we check to see, if possible, to whom that bit of information should go.

Before we meet with a potential…new...or current client, we check to see what we can learn about that client or what has been going on recently with the client.

I’m not saying you always can find what you’re looking for right off the bat. Sometimes it takes a little digging. But, especially in today’s Internet-based world, it’s very do-able…and very, very informative.

(Full disclosure: I Googled my name several years ago and discovered, unbeknownst to me or anyone who knows me, “Kirk Hazlett, age 35” had escaped from prison. I was, at the time, in my late 50s, so I figured it wasn’t me and went on about my day. But I have always thought…what if I had been looking for a job, and a prospective employer had checked me out online?!? Yowza!!)

“Homework” doesn’t stop when you graduate from high school or college. In fact, I would argue, after more than 40 years’ experience either as a PR pro or as a PR prof, that it just begins when you graduate!

Oftentimes, though…in my world, at least…the answers aren’t conveniently located at the back of the book.

You have to assemble a pile of facts, moosh (a “Kirk-word”) them together a bit, and come up with the answer on your own based on your knowledge, your understanding of the situation you’re dealing with, and the input of others.

Then, and only then, do you make a recommendation or take a course of action.

It’s called “doing your homework.”

BTW…haven’t heard “boo” from the individual I was talking about in the beginning!

“Knowledge is of two kinds. We know a subject ourselves, or we know where we can find information upon it.”
Samuel Johnson, from Boswell’s “Life of Johnson” [April 18, 1775]

4 comments:

  1. ok, I haven't thrown in my 2 1/2 cents for awhile, but this is a subject near and dear to my heart. First off, a factually correct statement.....homework from 6th grade through college sucks. Period. How can teachers be so cruel? But when I got into the business world, I had a 3 AM epiphany.

    Homework did not so much teach me more about a particluar subject rather, homework taught me self-discipline. Do I want to go out and party on Thursday night or spend the appropriate amount of time doing my homework that was due the next morning? If I chose the party, I would not be prepared. If I did my "homework", I would be prepared.

    To corroborate Prof Hazlett's point, I love when a vendor comes in to pitch me their product/service and they tell me how their product or service would be applicable in my business. They did their homework about my company prior to meeting with me.

    Most sales people do not do that. They pitch you their goods and then wait for you to tell them whether it will or will not apply. Then they use their best sales techniques to "overcome objections" as they are taught.

    A great sales person can skip that part. They have done their homework. And that skill/discipline was learned in the years prior to their career.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Doug, for reinforcing my message. I can't tell you how many times over my PR career I got "pitched" just like you describe, and the salesperson went away empty-handed. The ones who did their "homework" earned their pay...many times over! I appreciate your feedback as always!

      Delete
  2. It is times like that when I reply to the individual with pleasantries that I presume the sender prefers to be treated as a name and not a number -- and so do I. I then ask for more a more personalized request or else to remove me from their mailing list.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I usually do something similar, Ari. This particular one just didn't sit right with me. Too many holes in their "persona." The interesting thing is...I STILL haven't heard anything else!! Thanks for your feedback!

      Delete