With nearly 90,000 miles on the original battery, I knew I was playing with fire. “But why today?” The clicking sound coming from my car’s ignition on Monday prompted this reaction. So much for my plan to arrive at work early and practice my presentation for the PR Now symposium.
Sponsored by the RIT Department of Communication and the School of Hospitality and Service Management, PR Now was created to serve area colleges students seeking insights into various aspects of the public relations field. Organizers of the daylong event scored a great lineup of presenters, and it means a lot that former students of mine recommended I be included. And, of course, I am happy to take part.
Sitting there in my car, frustrated, I have yet to connect just how fitting these circumstances. Part of my message for students deals with success in PR through one’s ability to improvise.
It doesn’t happen often at RIT, thank goodness, but crisis situations are inevitable, and they force PR professionals to immediately break from the routine and pursue a different plan of action. My presentation referenced our ability at University News to address a robbery and shooting incident on campus four years ago. Certainly it threatened to undermine a sense of safety among members of the campus community, but our ability to manage the flow of information certainly helped to prevent that.
So time to improvise. While a dead battery hardly approaches crisis levels, a new plan of action is put in place. With no one nearby to provide a jump, I contact a local towing service. The hour or so spent waiting for help to arrive was ample time to review my presentation notes. Then, with my jumpstart secured, a drive to the dealership points me toward a resolution to my car problems.
By the time I take to the PR Now stage, I admit to still feeling a bit flustered. But surprisingly, looking out at the large audience, I find myself growing more at ease. I rarely feel far removed from today’s college students, even though one look in the mirror at the lines around my eyes always reminds me otherwise.
I talk about my career path through television news and into PR, the lessons I’ve learned and the techniques that have served me well. I talk about the importance of good writing and always striving to “tell a story.” And I touch a bit on ethics. Do what’s in the best interest of all your constituents, not just your own. It always plays to your benefit in the long run.
The remarks seem well received, and I hope they can have a positive impact. I only know they represent a philosophy that will carry me another 90,000 miles. As for my new battery, I can only hope.