PR lessons learned from my Dad


Everything I have ever needed to know about business—and public relations—I’ve learned from my father. As he prepares to retire after more than 18 years as a District Court Judge, I wanted to share some of that wisdom with you. Here are five of my Dad’s favorite sayings that translate into excellent advice you can apply to your PR strategy.

Honesty is the best policy

My father taught us early on that honesty is indeed the best policy. With lines like, “it’ll all come out in the wash,” we were taught that our only option was to be truthful.

Even if we were asked to snitch on our friends or siblings. Especially when we did something wrong. Always when our mom asked us if her outfit made her look fat.

When it comes to PR, the same is true.

Nearly every conversation about promoting your brand or business comes back to the same crucial idea. Be honest.

From crisis communications to reputation management to even drafting copy for your website, honesty is key.

Turn on any daily news broadcast, and you’ll see the news out of Washington is more likely than not a scandal that could have avoided if those involved were open and honest.

Don’t be that way. Instead, be transparent. Be truthful. Be authentic to what you want to be known for. Don’t be a liar.

Just be honest.

Hustle on defense wins

This is my father’s favorite line ever and he will apply it to any conversation at any time. As it turns out, Father does know best: Hustle on defense wins.

Or rather, hustling everywhere all the time wins.

No matter how strong your brand, how long you’ve owned your business, or where in the world you are located. To succeed in business, you must work hard, hunker down, hustle, and stay feisty.

The same can be said for PR activity.

The more you do, the more buzz about your brand or business you’ll see. And the more buzz about what’s yours that can be seen, the more customers or sales you’ll have.

Sign up for HARO. Set up a six- or 12-month pitch calendar. Create an editorial schedule for your promotions or social media. Create content to get your business’ or brand’s name out there.

If you hustle, you will win. 

It’ll all work out

It’ll all work out…eventually.

Sometimes I forget that this is a lyric from a Tom Petty song and not just something my dad frequently said.

Yet, truer words have never been spoken.

In the midst of my most intense moments—both personal and professional—you can find me humming this line repeatedly. Because whatever I might be going through, my father taught me that the current state of affairs I was experiencing is not how something ends.

There is always a solution. And, while it might not be the solution you were hoping for, things do always work out for the best.

When it comes to PR, the same is true.

When pitching your story or brand to the media, be prepared to get rejected. To feel as if you’ve failed or that things will never work out.

Yes, it can feel discouraging after a while. But remember, editors, and reporters get pitched hundreds of story ideas daily. They simply don’t have the ability to pursue every story that comes their way.

The key is to stay positive, keep at it, adapt your messaging to fit the outlet you are pitching, and learn as you go along.

Ask your mother

I’m certain that nine times of ten, my Dad told us this one merely to get us out of his hair so he could have some peace and quiet. Per usual, though, he was teaching us a valuable life and PR lesson.

Always get a second opinion.

Not sure whether you should undertake the responsibility of a blog for your brand? Ask a peer. Wondering if your key messages are hitting home with your target audience? Get their opinion. Looking for feedback on your latest pitch that may have fallen flat? Ask a reporter their opinion.

While being an entrepreneur or small business owner can sometimes feel like you’re operating in a vacuum. You’re not. There a ton of resources out there that can help you.

Use them!

Not sure how to pull together a media kit or draft a PR pitch? While we have fantastic tools for you to use here and here.

Try it, you might like it

A key part of growing up in the Greenwood household, was that every child had to try at least one sport or afterschool activity each season.

Whether we wanted to or not.

Because of this valuable life lesson, I now know that I have no rhythm thanks to band, get bored standing in the outfield courtesy of softball, and know what humiliation feels like after getting cut my senior year of basketball.

I also know what persistence and hard work can do when you apply yourself. And I use both every day in PR.

Are you pitching your heart out but still failing to get that placement? Make sure you are pitching the right media contacts and that you’ve done your research. Double-check your pitch and make sure it is on message but still relevant.

It also is important to be persistent with your follow ups until you land that coveted yes from a media outlet who is interested in covering your story.

Force yourself to keep trying. Make yourself keep working at it. Eventually, you’ll succeed. And, you’ll discover the aspects of promotions you love.

It really does all work out eventually.

What inspirational business lessons have you learned from your Dad?

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