I have always believed in the saying: failure to prepare is preparing to fail.

By coincidence, according to Kathy Cripps, the same phrase was often used by the late John Wooden, who is also a favorite because I grew up dreaming of going to UCLA. [And technically I did – I took one extension class when I live near the campus in Brentwood, plus, I hung out at the bookstore.]

I love basketball and it is my favorite sport to watch. I understand the game and I grew up listening to my uncles’ cheer for the Portland Trail Blazers. I actually remember watching the parade when they won the NBA Championship in 1977.

Was it Wooden’s discipline and drive to prepare for each game that led UCLA 10 NCAA Championships?

When I found Kathy Cripps’ Firm Voice blog post that lead with the Wooden quote, I knew I was in for a good read. Cripps notes:

Whether you are playing sports, interviewing for a job or making an important speech, if you haven’t adequately prepared someone else probably has, and that person might eat your lunch someday.

Her blog post is specific to training and mentoring within the public relations industry – something I feel very strongly about. I got into a wee bit of trouble recently because, apparently, one of my smarty-pants comments about interns was retold in a way that made someone feel uncomfortable. Honestly, I can’t remember the exact conversation, but I probably said something like this:

PR firms that put high profile principals as the lead on every project but really turn the work over to interns are awful! That’s like introducing Kobe Bryant and sending me in!

But here is the truth: if PR firms did a better job of mentoring and training, we would not be having the identity crisis that we are having now. If PR firms were ensuring that senior-level staff was supporting entry-level staff every step of the way, then The Bad Pitch Blog would be blank.

I know most don’t, but there are PR firms out there that slap their highest paid, most qualified individuals on every proposal, but those people never actually work on the accounts or show up for meetings. That’s like Scott Brooks announcing he has formed a team with Michael Jordan, but Jordan never actually plays in any of the games. Believe me, the clients…I mean fans… would not be happy!

I know most don’t, but there are PR firms that sign account coordinators up for online PR software services to build media lists that are never checked by a senior person. If so, we would not have journalists coming out decrying the spamming practices of PR firms.

Is it bad for me to call out our profession?

Yes, if I am not willing to do anything about it. That’s just complaining. It is ok to point out broad issues in PR if I am willing to do what I can to improve them. Which I am.

That is why I love the idea of Council of PR Firms The Harvard Leadership Program, an agency leadership retreat that focuses on helping PR managers to “maximize leadership skills and challenge the way they think about agency business strategies.”

Sign me up! And sign up all those people who send out press releases without checking (and then double-checking) their media list, as well as the ones who let the interns run the place.

Not sure you are cut out to be a Communications leader, not only for clients, but for our staff as well? Here are 5 attributes for ensuring you have a successful PR career, as well as become a successful PR team leader:

5 Keys for a Successful PR Career:

  1. PLAN: Failing to prepare is preparing to fail

  2. PRIORITIZE: Saying NO is as important as saying YES

  3. GIVE: Everything begins and ends with relationships

  4. LISTEN: Often what you don’t hear tells you more than what you do hear

  5. EXECUTE: You need to know when to fold ’em and know when to hold ’em; know when to walk away and know when to run [Thanks Kenny]

Public Relations is a profession that forces you to bring it every day – don’t hate the player and don’t hate the game either.

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