My PR Mantras
By L. Aruna Dhir, A Hospitality & Feature Writer and Columnist
So what does a day look like in the life of a Hotel Public Relations person?
It goes something like this -
8.15 AM - Check-In into office.
8.30 AM - Morning Briefing with the GM and the other Excom.
9.30 AM - Departmental Briefing.
10.30 AM - Meeting with a Travel Editor.
11.30 AM - 1 PM - Work on Press Release, Newsletter; hand-hold Printer or Graphic Designer.
1.15 PM - Lunch with a Food Writer to get the Restaurant reviewed.
3.00 PM - Meeting with F&B and Banqueting Departments for organizing an event.
3.30 PM - 5.15 PM - Work on Database, Backgrounders, respond to media queries.
5.30 PM - A quick Drink with an in-house VIP Guest.
7 PM - 12 AM - the Hotel Event.
Sign off for the day.
Though the piece is written in half jest but it is not far from the truth of the matter.
Of course, inevitably, there happens the jumbling up of tasks and addition of new ones into the schedule. There is never a dull moment, with each day bringing in fresh challenges and new excitements onto an already loaded plate.
On some days it is a FAM (familiarization) Dinner at 8 PM that may last till 11 PM or go on well beyond the witching hour depending on the company, the conversation, the sense of bonhomie and the wine.
Then there are days when you literally burn the midnight oil pouring over a manual that screams to be written before a set date or getting down on all fours scanning spreadsheets of responses, graphs, pie charts and the like to complete an Image and Positioning Analysis Study that your boss has committed to his boss - the Owner of the Group. Working at that hour of the night is a different feeling completely as you hear the excited happy feet of one shift clocking out and the heavy footsteps of the new shift pulling the weight over them into the portals of order, duty and discipline.
There are days when the Morning Briefing turns out to be a game of Angry Birds and stretches on to mid-morning, ruining the tempo of rest of the day.
There are times when the lunch with the media friends is so leisurely that you race back from it to only nosedive into another meeting; if God is kind then it is not the dreadful FRM (Financial Review Meeting) chaired by the dour, unsmiling Financial Controller.
There are also occasions when you get to escape the cage of the primate that you inhabit, to smell the coffee at an industry event outside. While all the industry networking is all very well and in the spirit of overall goodness for your role and your Company, it throws a spanner into your tick-tocking day as you lose control over the time which is no longer at hand. And sometimes, that event pulls on and on into the dark of the night sapping you of all energy and mutilating both your feet and spirit into unrecognizable masses so much that it takes a whole lot of effort to return to work the next day. But return you must; for any industry old hand will tell you there are few off days and fewer leaves.
A Hospitality Editor with a highly respected Newspaper conducted a Poll in 2002 and yours truly got voted right on top by not just her but the contemporaries from competition, opinion makers and thought leaders and most importantly the guests. It set me thinking about what I was doing right and what I could better with each passing day.
Certainly, it was more than the shiny pearls, the polished shoes, the branded dress and bag. It was also a lot more than the infectious smile, the pleasant demeanour, the easy accessibility, the friendly approach. Though, to be fair, both the former and the latter sets do add admirably to the arsenal needed to beat the daily battles and win the war.
So, here's presenting a leaf out of my PR Book and the tricks of the trade that have become the 'Mantra' I swear by -
Be a good strategist
Evolve a dynamic PR & Communications strategy; look at new avenues (even unprecedented) to get your company's story or message out.
I call it "the fresh pair of eyes' that you see things with, such that a lot that goes on in different areas can become fantastic ideas to pitch and aspects to showcase.
A good Rep
Cultivate a reputation of reliability and responsiveness in good turnaround time, even if sometimes your response is a regret and in the negative.
I always try to respond and close the communication loop. You can then move on and pave the way for another dialogue based on clarity and a clear conscience.
Shaking up, shaping anew
Employ lateral thinking and use varied, multi-level opportunities, some of which are freshly created, either in isolation or in sync with a co-worker.
Presenting the annual arrival of Beaujolais with new drama, creating a novel sense of high around the Melbourne Cup with new facets added to the festive fare, conceiving a unique Progressive Dinner format to promote your restaurants, developing interestingly packaged welcome packs with the best information capsules and backgrounders bound with nice little touches so as to heighten the interest and curiosity of the visiting FAM!!
The options are endless and the avenues aplenty.
From the other perspective
Understand the media's perspective instead of being a push-over and forcing someone to give you column cm space. If you have a good idea, it will sell. So put all your energy into creating and pitching good ideas instead of pushing the press release. You don't wish to dial and hear a drone at the end of a line threatening to go silent!
Cushioning the Boss
Be a good ideating, fact-crunching support that the Boss can fall back on at interviews. Be his mouth piece without taking the credit and the shine away from him.
Go back to the three Rs
Be an excellent writer and an eclectic one, so that you are as adept at writing the press releases, articles, speeches or manuals, business letters and web texts.
Be an interested and voracious reader for subjects both topical and general - the first will fire up your intellect and give you new ideas; the second will make you an interesting person to talk to.
Finally, develop a head for numbers. There are budgets to handle, bottom lines to understand and overall business to comprehend.
Sharpen all your senses
Be a good public speaker. There will be many occasions when you will have the chance to speak at employee meets, industry events or Hotel Dos.
Be a great listener of both what is being said and a lot that is stated but is unsaid.
Have a nose for the news.
See the smallest thing, the proverbial fine print on situations at hand.
Develop a taste for new things. You are after all in the wining & dining business too.
Build long-term relationships
Foster and strengthen relationships with the media and the other significant publics. Respect even the cub reporter (regardless of one's own seniority) and watch the relationship blossom once the cub grows into a lion of an editor.
Be abreast with current, business and industry news
Not only does that make you intelligent but also a lot of ideas come from there.
Be adaptable and flexible
Spread yourself thin in the context of gaining experience and meeting new job requests.
At my last job, I got to train even the telephone operators on communication skills, write manuals, prepare lot of archival documentation, write most of the business letters regardless of the department, write the web text myself without outsourcing it and enjoy the privilege of designing, writing and creating a lot of marketing communications collateral.
In the process, I learned new tricks of the trade, added new skills to my quiver, sharpened the ones I already possessed and put into place a plan that helped me keep my departmental and overall marketing budget healthy.
Be eager to learn and raise your personal benchmark at every instance.
Be a good mentor and trainer to your subordinates.
That is a double-edged sword.
Not only do you gain professional currency amongst the current and prospective mentees, you also create a strong brand equity and brand loyalty for your personal brand.
Above all, you cultivate teams that are qualified to delegate assignments to and free yourself up for the next agenda on a higher plank.
Think the big picture
Be able to integrate the PR function into the larger business plan of the company and cease to see it as a soft, fluffy side-function.
Being a spending department does not mean that you can add to the bottom line.
Play an integral role in Company's profit protection by honing a lot of in-house skills.
I am sure; you have your own list too. It would be a wonderful experience to hear yours and integrate it into my 14.