Matter Chatter

4 Lessons in PR from the Founding Fathers

In honor of the upcoming holiday weekend, I wanted to take a look back at our nation’s founding fathers. These men were not only strong leaders with political savvy – they were also pros at using PR tactics to achieve their goals. In fact, President Thomas Jefferson first used the term “public relations” in 1807 in his “Seventh Address to the Congress.” By employing public relations strategies in their fight for independence, our nation’s founders united the early Americans and led them to victory. The following four lessons from the founding fathers can be applied to today’s public relations work.

1) Have a core message – Ever heard of “No taxation without representation”? The founding fathers had quite a few slogans and key phrases that they promoted for their cause. In PR, it is important to always remember your core message when pitching reporters, writing press releases, facilitating interviews, and in almost any other task. Keeping on message ensures that the client’s point of view is transmitted in a consistent way by all team members.

2) Host Events – Organizing events, such as the Boston Tea Party, was one way that the American revolutionaries gathered their supporters to broadcast their message. Organizing events for clients is one way PR pros can attract media attention to promote client’s interests. Events can be a great way for clients to interact with many members of the media at once, as well as provide an opportunity to showcase the client’s personality. Events also provide a forum to discuss industry news and trends, which can spark ideas for future media opportunities.

3) Get “organized” – This point is two lessons in one. First, being organized is a necessary trait to have to achieve productivity in PR. The key is to create a system and stick to it.  Personally, I work best by separating my email into folders, with just a few subfolders within each main folder for specific daily and weekly tasks. My to-do lists live in one clean notebook, and I always check off a task when it is completed. The rest of my notes go into separate notebooks. I like to organize my to-do’s by priority, and frequently set reminders through my email calendar help to keep me on track. The American revolutionaries didn’t have the technology we have today in PR to stay organized, but they did their best with what they had to work with. Messengers traveling by horseback and handwritten letters did the trick for them, but I’m pretty thankful for all the tools we have on hand today.

The second lesson to this point is the importance of “organizations,” or groups of people. Early Americans joined organizations such as the Sons of Liberty in order to communicate and work with their fellow revolutionaries. In PR, collaborating with your team is an essential part of your success. Staying in regular communication with teammates is key to getting work done in a timely, efficient manner. They can provide guidance and perspectives you may not have thought of, spot errors you’ve overlooked and share wisdom based on previous experiences. No one person could have won the Revolutionary War, just as no one person is responsible for the success of a client’s campaign.

4) Persevere – Despite losing 25,000 men in battles over the course of the Revolutionary War, the American troops would not back down against their British foes. Perseverance is just as important in PR. Just because a pitch doesn’t land a positive response on the first try doesn’t mean you should give up. Following up with reporters and thinking of new ways to position previously unsuccessful opportunities is some of the most difficult work we do. Creativity is a major part of this process, and having an open mind to forging new paths can make working in PR much easier.

Have a wonderful Fourth of July!