How to avoid the ‘PR naughty chair’

Although there can be gray areas in communications, there are some definite taboos when managing clients and the media. Etiquette is important. Here are a few rules to adopt.

Many PR pros are familiar with some version of a “time-out chair.”

Made popular by the reality television show “Supernanny,” parents used the “naughty chair”—under the guidance of expert child-wrangler Jo Frost—to get misbehaving children to calm down.

After sitting in the punitive chair for a certain period of time, the child in question would apologize, get a hug and kiss from mom or dad and move forward.

PR pros often find ourselves in need of a “PR naughty chair” for clients. If only it were that easy. So, what does it take to land in one? Here are a few infractions we wish we could call a timeout over:

For crying out loud. It’s rarely OK to fly off the handle—especially in public. As police officers often warn: “Anything you say can and will be used against you.” PR and media relations are a small world, so when in doubt, take a deep breath and keep your trap shut. Better yet, have your PR spokesperson do the finessing.

Making like Kanye. Ranting on social media and starting a fight from behind the cozy confines of your computer should be a no-no—especially for brand managers. Consider your virtual image to be an extension of your public face. If you are the head of an organization or its key spokesperson, remember that your actions are a reflection on the entire organization. Think twice before blasting a competitor online.

Going “off the record.” Repeat after me: There’s no such thing as “off the record.”

Crickets . When the reporter reaches out to you and says she’s on a tight deadline, whether it’s for a major daily newspaper or a hyperlocal weekly, it’s important to make yourself available. Being inaccessible can ruin a wonderful opportunity for your brand.

Being in a bubble. If you’re going to invest the time, energy and money to work with a PR firm, remember that you should be partners. If you fail to update the agency on your news—good or bad—you’re not going to make the most of the relationship. Similarly, if a firm has to chase you down, managers are using valuable time that they’d rather spend pitching, writing and making connections.

Marcia, Marcia, Marcia!” syndrome. We know you’re special and that you want attention, but when you’re working with the reporters, remember that giving is more important than getting.

Just say “no.” Putting the brakes on an initiative in spite of counsel from the professionals you’re paying to help is not only unwise, it’s also counterproductive. Try to have an open mind; be willing to entertain new approaches and creative ideas, even if they are out of your comfort zone. That’s where a true expert shines, and it’s how you can set your business apart from the crowd.

Media stalking. Nobody likes a stalker—not in relationships and definitely not in the workplace. Refrain from adding the person who has just interviewed you to your sales email blasts. That’s a no-no.

If you’re working with a reporter or editor, back off once he or she has what they need. If a reporter want to follow up, he will call or email you.

Now, get up out of that chair and go play.

Filomena Fanelli is the CEO and founder of Impact PR & Communications in Poughkeepsie, New York. A version of this article originally appeared on Impact’s blog .

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Topics: PR

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