Thursday, February 26, 2004


We attended a meeting yesterday during which several crises were affecting a client at the same time. It was chaos. The head of the organization was on the phone. People were dodging in and out of the conference room. Three different documents were under preparation, a fourth under discussion, and we were talking strategy for how to handle a touchy situation. Our client was unable to focus on any one item for more than a few moments before something else hit him.

In the middle of the bustle, it struck me that this was no way to do quality Public Relations. There is too much chance of making a mistake when pressure is this high. And, there were minor errors in the documents we looked at. Some were grammatical and easily fixed. One or two were tactical mistakes in handling the media.

When there are tough issues and short deadlines, one still needs time to think. Executing at high speed guarantees a less optimal solution. And such solutions have a tendency to create problems. The client had little choice in moving as fast as he did. There were absolute deadlines. But that meant the client was forced to make best-guesses and hip-shot decisions. He had no time for more.

Perhaps the hardest thing to do in situations like this is to slow down and take five minutes to go through a document carefully. Sometimes this means leaving the room. (We actually took two documents back to the office because there was no way we could edit them at the client without constant disruption.) Quality work requires reflection and patience to spot the misused word, the unfortunate phrase and tactical error.

Yet, some PR departments seem to be a center of chaos. That's not good. Not only does it burn out practitioners, but they also begin to satisfice, to make do, to let little things slip in order to meet deadlines. Over time quality slips and eventually one asks what happened to standards.


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