Time Is Our Most Precious Commodity

If you have been creeping in my LinkedIn profile — you know who you are — you may have noticed I recently started my own company, Yelram Media.

This cleverly-named entity was born out of a desire and necessity.

But if I’m being completely honest, the idea was always percolating in the back of my brain, just waiting to be unleashed.

Sometimes, getting let go from you full-time job is all the impetus you need to do what you’ve always wanted to do. At least, that’s what I’ve been telling myself since this became a reality.

Anyway, in discussions with potential clients about how we can partner together, one word keeps popping up when we talk:

Time.

I’ve talked about how time is fleeting on this blog before, but the point of this post is somewhat different.

Business owners simple don’t have enough time in their day to do everything they want.

That’s the refrain that continues to emerge: “I want to better market my business and spend more time creating content my potential customers will appreciate, but I have to run my business.”

I get it. The priority is, and always will be, making money to stay afloat. Pay the mortgage. Put food on the table.

This isn’t breaking news to anyone, but understanding where your skills can translate to help a business succeed is vitally important in this day and age of marketing.

I was listening to the excellent The Why And The Buy podcast last night, and my good friend Jeff Bajorek (who hosts it with Christie Walters) made the truthful claim that everyone claims to be a digital marketer nowadays.

Figuring out how you can differentiate yourself from others is key, and that often comes down to identifying your strengths and being able to clearly state to potential clients how your offerings will save them time.

When you can package that with a proven ability to bring in new customers, well, now you’re just ahead of the curve.

Stop Enabling Assholes

WARNING: LANGUAGE AHEAD

As an industry — I’m talking about public relations & marketing — we need to stop enabling assholes.

I’m not talking about demanding clients who expect great things from their agency partnership.

That is an entirely different and not at all poor behavior.

I’m referring to individuals who are downright mean to the agencies that support their efforts.

While they are small in number, they are large in presence, often overshadowing everything because of the way they carry themselves.

To wit, I once had a supervisor say this about a client: “He’s an asshole but he’s our asshole.”

While I agree with the spirit behind the statement, I wholeheartedly disagree with giving somebody a free pass to act like one and get away with it, even if they are the person responsible for the budget.

In this competitive agency world, where we fight for every nickel and put up with terrible client behavior, we let them walk all over us.

We watch colleagues cry after being berated by a client, even going so far as to comfort them and tell them everything will be okay.

But we won’t actually do anything about their behavior, because most agencies haven’t properly planned for this type of situation, even though we’ve all seen it happen time and time again.

This has to stop.

Let’s face it — the world seems chaotic nowadays, what with natural and man-made disasters taking up a lot of the time on the nightly news. The last thing we need is to work with those who make us feel small and incapable of doing the work.

The client-agency partnership thrives when both parties know what is expected of each other, and both sides work their tails off to produce results.

That is how a partnership should work, not with one individual lording his or her power over his minions.

Agency folks are hard workers, often juggling more than one client at a time.

They don’t need any more stress than necessary.

Let’s stop enabling those who treat us poorly, and begin to recognize those who treat us fairly and push us properly to do our best.

Those are the folks we want to work with, and those are the clients who will see the greatest results.

Good PR Takes Time And Effort

My front lawn needs a lot of work.

It looks passable to the neighbors who fly around the corner in their SUVs and barely give it a second look.

But, to me, it’s the scourge of the neighborhood.

If I look at it from my second-floor bedroom window, the bare spots and green-that-is-not-that-green grass are blatantly obvious.

So, as fall comes around and the temps begin to drop (that will happen eventually), I am committed to making my lawn nicer in preparation for next spring and summer.

That means taking care of the grass already there and planning to have more sprout up next year.

I’ve begun to fertilize on a regular basis, and over-seeded the bare spots so green grass fills the brown and I have a somewhat passable lawn.

From there, I’ll have to put in the work to keep it from falling into disarray again, but I’m pretty confident I can make it better if I pay attention and work upkeep into my schedule.

It’s a process, but it’s a process that will yield visible results.

As I thought about how much work it would take to bring my lawn back to life, I couldn’t help but think that, like a lot of projects we undertake, the work of the public relations professional rests on a consistent drumbeat of activity that pays dividends down the road, but not immediately.

You know, like my lawn.

There are a lot of services that promise immediate results if you pay them enough money. But those results don’t amount to much, other than being picked up by websites that already pick up every release that crosses the wire.

The mark of a true public relations professional lies in their ability to land meaningful coverage for a client; coverage that is born out of consistent and diligent hard work, made possible through regular discussions with the right media, and a knack for finding stories that the general public will care about.

There is a time and place for posting a press release on the wire, but don’t confuse those high numbers with actually moving the needle.

Just like you can’t lay down grass seed and expect blades of grass to pop up overnight, you can’t expect the front page of the New York Times after your first company announcement.

It takes work.

If you take the time to lay out future announcements into a cohesive editorial calendar, and sprinkle in elements of the company story through owned media, you can begin to tell the right story and bring customers and consumers on board.

That steady cadence will do more for your success than a press release blast ever will.

Think of your sod as the story of your company.

That story will shrivel up and die if you send it out into the world and forget about it.

But if you are consistent and smart with how you care for it, the narrative will grow over time, and you’ll find journalists are more interested in what you have to say because you’ve built up the background story over time.

Like I said, if you want your company to be truly revered and looked at as meaningful, you need to nurture it at all times. Don’t ignore it.

Like a good, strong lawn, a company’s story is only as good as the people who care for it.

That’s the value of public relations.

Time Is Fleeting

It has been theorized that, as we get older, time speeds up.

Whether it’s because we’re introduced to less new experiences than we did when we were kids, or our biological clocks have slowed down, the jury’s still out on why this is a phenomenon.

But no one can argue the speeding up of time is something all of us experience as we age.

Last week, over a span of five days, I celebrated my oldest daughter’s tenth birthday and attended my 20-year high school reunion.

If there was ever a time where I felt the crushing weight of the passage of time, this was it.

Not only do gray hairs begin to sprout when I watch how mature my daughter has become, but it’s jarring as hell to see a group of people I haven’t seen in 20 years.

I met most of them when I was around my daughter’s age, and now we’re getting together to celebrate being out of high school for two decades.

In short: I’ve never felt older.

Seeing old classmates — some balder, a few grayer — after so long was completely different, while being exactly the same, if that makes any sense.

We fell back into old habits and gravitated toward the same group of people we always did, as if we were sitting in the cafeteria having lunch together.

The only difference is that there was some alcohol involved, and a lot of us knew our kids would wake us up early the next morning, seemingly indifferent to the fact that mom and dad stayed up way past their bedtime.

When I tried to explain to my kids the next morning how fast these past 20 years have flown by, their brains were incapable of comprehending.

To them, a six-hour school day may as well be six days. To them, time drags.

But not to us. This was a time to marvel at how quickly time flies.

This post, however, is not to send you into a depression about your impending demise.

Rather, I want to encourage you to take advantage of your time, and this stands as a good reminder to do exactly that while we are still relatively young.

Spend time with people who matter.

Sneak in an extra round of golf.

Start your own business.

Speak your mind.

For God’s sake do something. If this past weekend taught me anything, it’s that time is going to fly no matter what you do, so get as much enjoyment out of this life as possible.

How To Train Your Writers

Let’s try a thought experiment.

Imagine, for a moment, you are a fresh college graduate at your first PR agency job. You have worked there for a few months and, so far, everything is going well.

You’ve landed a few media placements on behalf of your client, you are killing it at media monitoring, and your weekly call recaps are must-read material for account team members.

One morning, you arrive at the office to find you have been assigned to write an article on the topic of, say, autonomous vehicles on behalf of your client’s chief technology officer. You need to write it in the “voice” of the executive, yet, you’ve never heard the CTO speak.

So you open a blank Word document, start and re-start the piece 27 times, then cry because you are a failure.

Sound familiar?

If you haven’t experienced the crippling agony of struggling to write something in the voice of an executive who has decades of experience on the very topic you are banging your head about, then you’ve never really lived.

The sad part? It happens a lot, usually under pressure to get a final draft in front of the client.

But when that new writer struggles to put together a good first draft, the agency is forced to bring in a more seasoned writer to quickly clean it up and ship an acceptable version off to the client to meet the deadline.

You might be thinking “Hey, what’s wrong with that? The client is happy and that’s all that matters.”

The problem, dear reader, is that we are bound to live in this never-ending cycle of turning over writing projects to the better writers at the last minute. If the only practice junior staffers get is a first draft that gets completely rewritten, what’s the point in having them write that draft in the first place?

Not to mention the fact that those senior writers have deadlines to meet and projects to handle. If we have to bring them in at the last minute on a regular basis, it throws off everyone’s schedule.

It’s pointless.

This type of activity isn’t sustainable.

To be an effective agency, you need the right mix of personnel who are all-star writers, as well as the future stars who are ready to break into the big leagues.

To do this, there are a few steps that can be taken to get started down the path of grooming the next generation.

  1. Practice, Practice Practice – I know everyone is busy, what with billable hours and client demands. But nobody ever got better at something by not practicing. Consider building writing practice into your team’s time, even if you force them to mark it as non-billable. As content creation and marketing becomes a more integral part of PR, we will need more writers who can cut it, not less. If they have put in the practice time, rest assured they’ll produce better content.
  2. Plan, Plan, Plan – There isn’t really a good reason to rush to deliver a piece to the client at the last minute. Putting together a simple editorial calendar for client content is one way to ensure those who need practice have ample time to write the first draft, and those who need to review have ample time to review and provide feedback.

The need for good writing is only going to increase, especially as the journalism industry continues to shrink.

The ability for a company to tell its own story becomes more attractive, so it’s in your agency’s best interest to retain a stable of solid writers who can grasp the intricacies of a client’s business and put it out there so it’s easy to understand, all while doing it in an efficient manner.

Not only does it save time and energy, but great writing and content creation can be a boon for your agency’s business, so it makes a lot of sense to have people on the team who are great at it.