7 PR lessons from Thanksgiving dinner

The season of giving thanks with family and friends—and stuffing our faces—offers important reminders for public relations professionals.

Despite the warm feelings Thanksgiving inspires—heaping plates of mashed potatoes, the delicious smell of turkey, pumpkin pie—thinking about the holidays may also send you in a panic.

It’s a common feeling when PR pros look at their to-do lists.

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, and to help ease that anxiety, here are seven lessons PR people can take away from the holiday dinner.

1. Plan your menu

Grocery lists are key for your pre-Thanksgiving trips to the store, otherwise you’re rushing to find the grocer that’s open on Turkey Day just hours before your guests arrive. And you had better know who’s bringing what to dinner to confusion table. (Don’t want three Jell-O molds.)

Similarly, PR professionals need to draft plans for their various strategies, whether it’s the launch of a new product or a looming crisis. That way you don’t forget to include contact information on a media advisory or forget a key step in your crisis communications strategy.

2. Avoid going at it alone

Assuming you can cook an entire huge Thanksgiving dinner (and have the dishes turn out as pretty as they are on Pinterest) is simply not logical. Neither is thinking you can singlehandedly implement every part of that next big client promotion nor achieve glowing results.

As painful as it might be for some of us, delegate tasks and ask for help so you won’t lay awake late into the night wondering how it can possibly all get done in time.

3. Kick the extra cooks out of the kitchen

Asking for help is one thing; having too many over-eager helpers with competing opinions is quite another.

Assigning specific tasks and knowing who is doing what minimizes stress and potential disasters. The last thing you want is to accidentally mix the sweet potatoes in a bowl used for uncooked meat, or, along the same lines, send a news release before it is approved, forget to mention an embargo, or tweet classified information.

4. Remember, one helping is plenty

The trick to a “skinny” Thanksgiving? Resisting the urge to have seconds—or thirds.

On Thanksgiving, the average person eats around 4,500 calories. Talk about over-indulging—that’s more than double what a normal adult should eat in one day.

It’s all about limits—just like in corporate communications.

The best way to get fans to un-follow your client on social media is to bombard them with extra helpings of Facebook posts and tweets. Don’t overdo it on social media. Determine a strategy with the right number of posts and tweets and stick to it. Of course, this may change depending on what’s going on, but the last thing you want is for users to disengage altogether.

5. Go ahead—break the wishbone

You have a 50/50 chance of coming out with the smaller end or being the lucky winner, but if you don’t take a chance, you’ll never know.

The same goes for PR campaigns: Sometimes, you have to take a risk and try something new. That doesn’t mean blow an entire budget blindly, but think about fresh, creative new tactics to use in spreading messages.

What if that campaign doesn’t turn out as well as you hoped? Well, take what you learned and perfect your strategy for the next time around.

6. Don’t blame the turkey

Despite the much-hyped tryptophan in turkey, it’s not the bird that made you pass out on the couch after Thanksgiving dinner, but the carbs. Yet people still blame the bird.

Similarly, it’s usually not one person’s fault when an initiative fails. Avoid pointing fingers if an event or promotion doesn’t go well, or placing blame without having all of the facts. Part of being a team is not throwing the “turkey” under the bus, but instead figuring out a solution and working through problems.

7. Never forget: Relationships matter

The holidays are a time to spend with family and friends. It’s easy to forget how much relationships matter in life—both personally and professionally. Take time to enjoy the wonderful people in your life and spend time building relationships. Not only is it good for your mental health, but also it’s good for business.

Hana Bieliauskas is a project manager in the Columbus, Ohio, office of CMA (@CMABuildsTrust), a national public relations agency based in Kansas City, Mo. Follow her on Twitter @hanab08. A version of this story first appeared on the CMA blog.

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Topics: PR

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