Thursday, June 25, 2009

Lessons Learned

Today's post for Sizzlin' Summer is from Monica Faulkenbery, APR, and the San Antonio Chapter's Tex Taylor Lifetime Achievement Award Winner for 2009. It is an excerpt of her acceptance speech given in May.

In May, I was honored with the Tex Taylor Lifetime Achievement Award by our chapter. Not feeling quite “old enough” to receive a lifetime award but having been in educational PR for the past 30 years, I decided my speech would be about “lessons learned.” I figured that within those 30 years, I’ve probably made almost every mistake possible, and I could share some of those stories—some were funny (now); some were embarrassing (typical rookie mistakes); and some were life altering. I have been asked to share some of that speech on our blog—names may be changed to protect the innocent and not so innocent.

Lessons learned:
• At a college in central Texas, I was asked to do something about the apathy on campus among faculty and staff. We buried it, complete with casket, campus-wide funeral march, and kazoo band. Lesson learned: think twice before doing some stupid PR stunt.
• Coordinated a state-wide air show for several years. As planes came into the show, I signed multimillion liability contracts for military and civilian planes alike. Thank goodness, we never had an incident. Lesson learned: read the fine print on everything you sign.
• Played host to every seated President and U.S. Presidential candidate at the time. Preparing for an arrival, a Secret Service agent walked around the facility where we would have the press conference. Looking at the dingy, old room he said, “can you spiff it up a bit.” With mop in hand, it got “spiffed.” Lesson learned: don’t think you are above doing anything in PR.”• I once submitted a feel good story to local press about a third grader who was able to stop a school bus during rush hour traffic when the driver suffered a stroke. Because of that story, I spent the next month serving as that student’s agent booking him on all the major network talk shows, Jay Leno, Oprah, People Magazine, Access Hollywood, etc. You name it, he was on it. We even did a three day re-enactment for a TV show. The problem was that with all that attention he received, it changed the kid…not necessarily for the better. Lesson learned: you can change the path of someone’s life.
• Post-Columbine, I ran into an issue where a local shock radio station sent out a scantly-dressed biker dude to a high school pep rally, wearing only speedos and a back-pack with an antenna sticking out of it. The guy would not speak when asked what he was doing. Come to find out, he was broadcasting live. Not knowing that, security of course thought that there could be a bomb in the backpack. Kids, who listened to the station, knew what was going on and were going wild. Lesson learned: not sure what our lesson was…although the radio station learned a good one that day, but it makes for a good story.

I could go on, but as with my speech, I had to stop sometime, and conclude with a bit of sage advice to pass on from my lifetime of achieving. So here goes:

• Work at a job that you enjoy. I can say that I look forward to going to work every day. (I have worked at a job that I didn’t like and became a person I didn’t like, so I know the difference.)
• Join an organization – like PRSA – where you can connect with “your people.” People with similar interests and like personalities.
• Pursue your APR. Just by preparing for it will help you in your current job, help you learn more about your current field, and make you be more valuable to your current (and future) employers. By achievement your APR, will make you someone that finds their resume at the top of the pile in these tough economic times.
• Find a non-job related organization to volunteer at. We’re not on this Earth for just ourselves. Whether it is a homeless shelter, animal shelter, or family abuse shelter…by helping others less fortunate than yourself, making a difference in someone else’s life…will help you put things in perspective on those tough days.
• And, finally – don’t take yourself so serious. Enjoy your life because it truly is a short one.