Fore! PR lessons from the links

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When I was 8 years old, my grandfather bought me a mini-golf club set. He was determined to teach me how to sink a putt and hit a killer drive. Until this initial lesson, golf was a foreign language to me. In fact, until then, golf seemed like a strange game of old guys whispering back and forth while hitting small white balls with crooked metal sticks.

My grandfather tried to explain that golf, contrary to my description, is a lot like life—it takes time and patience to get things right, repetition is key to success, and sometimes you’ve just got to play the ball where it lies. After a few lessons, my grandfather would give me what would later become a much bigger lesson than I had thought. He explained that the key to being a good golfer wasn’t my stance or grip. It wasn’t the quality of my club either. It was all about the follow through.

Many years later, I find myself applying this lesson to my career in public relations. From client expectations to media relations, the key is following through. We so often talk about the communications industry moving in light year speed, where 15-minutes of fame is more often packaged as a 2-minute viral YouTube video. Before you know it, today is yesterday, the news headlines have changed and your video is stale.

But humans, despite our technological attempts to become robots, don’t work that quickly. Yesterday is still on our minds tomorrow and we want to know what happened to our voicemail or press release or Twitpic. This is where the follow though comes in. If we tell someone we’ll send them a media kit, we better do it. And almost just as important, is that we call to follow up.

Because without that follow up call, we haven’t done our job. Public relations is about relationships, and good relationships come from delivering on what we promised. Sometimes though, there are factors that get in the way of that goal. Even then – especially then – it’s imperative to follow up, sometimes at the cost of saying “I’m so sorry. Please, let me call you so you can yell at me.”

So, turns out my grandfather was right about the importance of the follow through. Although when I finally followed through on my golf swing, I hit my grandfather straight in the teeth. I think that’s what they call an ace. Ehh, or maybe just a hazard. Either way, I’m much better with following with public relations than a three wood.

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