January 26, 2015

3 Key Lessons PR Pros Can Learn From the 2015 #SOTU Address

PR Lessons

Last Tuesday’s State of the Union address has been a the focal point of many conversations throughout the past week. While a PR professional and the President of the United States may not have the same job description, there are a few valuable lessons PR pros can learn from President Obama’s speech.
1) Don’t be afraid to think big

image Andrew F. Kazmierski / Shutterstock.com
image Andrew F. Kazmierski / Shutterstock.com

One of the most talked about moments of Obama’s SOTU address was his plan to make two years of community college free, should students maintain a specified GPA. The goal of making college “as free and universal in America as high school,” is a lofty one, but if successfully executed, the plan could reduce the average American student’s $30,000 in student loan debt and would encourage more underprivileged students to enroll in higher education. While there are benefits to Obama’s proposed program, implementation will be challenging, with some anticipating the cost to reach upwards of $60 billion over a 10-year period.
Although Obama’s free community college initiative may seem somewhat far-reaching, what’s important is that he wasn’t afraid to propose a big, bold idea, despite initial backlash. Public relations professionals should think in a similar way–don’t be afraid to think outside the box and come up with a revolutionary new idea for your client’s next campaign. Creative, innovative ideas that push the envelop should be embraced, rather than shied away from. If the President of the United States can propose a bold idea and open himself up to international scrutiny, there’s no reason you should be afraid to break away from the status quo and share a novel idea with your team.
2) You can’t win them all
If there’s one thing Congress can never seem to agree on, it’s taxes. Obama’s most recent tax proposal includes increasing the capital gains tax to 28%, the rate it was during the Reagan era in the 1980s, closing the trust fund loophole, and providing a tax credit for dual-income families, among other changes. Many believe there’s a slim chance of the bill getting through the Republican-controlled Congress, a group well known for opposing tax hikes.
Just like the inevitable struggle President Obama will face when trying to get new bills through Congress, executing a successful PR campaign sometimes doesn’t go the way you’d like. Even with extensive research, planning and strategic execution, you might not land your client in their “dream” outlet.  Sometimes the timing is just off, or they might be busy with another deadline; there’s often no cut and dry reason why journalists or their editors choose not to cover your clients, but that can’t deter you from trying again in the future. Even if Obama’s bills are unlikely to pass in today’s divisive political climate, it does not stop him from trying, and it should not stop you either. To cite a very cliché Wayne Gretzky quote, “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” Don’t get discouraged and miss out on a future opportunity just because it didn’t go your way the first time.
3) Always keep a smile on your face

Obama’s now infamous “I have no more campaigns to run. I know, because I won both of them,” line has quickly become one of the most memorable moments of his State of the Union address. Despite facing some harsh criticism for this snarky utterance, the bigger lesson here is that you should never take yourself too seriously and should always maintain a positive attitude even when faced with adversity. The Gallup Poll shows Obama’s approval rating is hovering just under 50%, but he still manages to put on a brave, confident face and crack a joke, even with the entire world watching.
There will undoubtedly be plenty of days throughout the course of your PR career when things don’t go your way: reporters will ignore your emails and phone calls, your social media audience will be disengaged or your agency won’t be selected for a big new account. Even in the face of these hardships, it’s important to remain confident in your abilities and keep persevering to turn things around for the better.

BIG fish PR is an unconventional agency that helps its clients redefine their industries.