Lessons PR pros can learn from childhood novels

The start of a new year brings new clients, scenarios and strategies for communications pros. But as we ring in the new, it’s important to reflect on the lessons we learned over the last year.

Sometimes it’s worth going even further back. Every December, I reread one of my favorite childhood books. Part of it is nostalgia and my love for my favorite characters. But another part of this ritual is reflective—what lessons do these books teach that we can profit from through our adult lives? For public relations professionals, there is a wealth of knowledge to be gained from popular childhood novels:

1. “If you want to know what a man’s like, take a good look at how he treats his inferiors, not his equals.” — Sirius Black, “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire”

This quote reminds me that a CEO or company is only as strong as the people behind him or it. We have clients who have an internal communications program. The leadership team needs to better communicate with everyone in their organization. We PR pros develop classic Ambassador’s models for management communication, advocacy, and staff empowerment. This is how we give all staff levels either actual input or a perception of meaningful input into their organization’s operations.

Business Insider wrote an article a little over a year ago about the 25 CEOs most loved by their employees. Of course the CEOs varied in personality and industry. Many were cited as people who listened to their employees and wanted to see them grow. Internal respect and communication are very important for any company, and it’s our job to work with clients to ensure they have good internal communications.

2. “You must never feel badly about making mistakes … as long as you take the trouble to learn from them. For you often learn more by being wrong for the right reasons than you do by being right for the wrong reasons.” — Reason, “The Phantom Tollbooth.”

It makes sense that the character named Reason from “The Phantom Tollbooth” gives some of the best advice, advice that PR professionals should take to heart. Every day, persons make mistakes. The people who get past them are those who recognize them, apologize, and take steps to correct them.

The Boston Globe’s CEO apologized to U.S. House Speaker John Boehner for a Boston.com story that mocked the death threats against the Congressman. Regardless of whether or not the writer of story agrees with Boehner’s politics, mocking a death threat is never good. The newspaper soon realized it was at fault. One hopes The Globe has learned this lesson, a reminder for journalists and PR pros to think before you write.

3. “I can’t go back to yesterday because I was a different person then.” — Alice, Alice in Wonderland

Alice refers to the psychical changes she experienced traveling through Wonderland.

There is a lesson hidden here for PR professionals. We live in a world where we must constantly look forward. We must be ahead of the curve and ensure our clients are too.

One example of a brand not keeping up with the times: When Bic™ decided to sell underwear. Bic was not only behind the times, it failed to understand brand limits. Sure, some people enjoy wearing undergarments with the same label as their pen, but the majority of us don’t. Bic also lagged behind the times with its big brand-name labels on underwear. Stylist did an article about the history of underwear. They noted that Calvin Klein set the trend for big block brand names on underwear in the 1990s. Young adults enjoyed visible labels boldly staring out over their jeans. (As a child of the 90s, I remember this unfortunate phase.) So if Bic had started making underwear in 1992 it may have had a roaring success. And then again—perhaps not.

So next time you walk down memory lane with your favorite childhood novel, don’t forget the lessons to be learned from these books. And remember that if you sell ball point pens, you should think very hard before you slap your trusted brand name onto an undergarment line.

Kate Connors is the senior account manager and social media strategist at Media & Communications Strategies.

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We caught up with Jessica Thomas, owner of new online fashion boutique  Overmybody.com. Read on to find out why the online boutique aims to make  Australian and US brands more accessible for UK women. Jessica also gives great tips on starting your own e-commerce brand and who to rely on most for support. 

jt featureWhere did the idea for your brand Overmybody.com come from?
I became frustrated with the Fashion E-commerce offering currently available in the UK. When online shopping I found my options would end up being limited to expensive designer products, or items from Australian or American sites, which would cost an arm and a leg to get to London because of customs and shipping charges, and of course take longer to get here. I knew from speaking to others that I wasn’t the only one frustrated by this.

Tell us a bit about your brand?
OverMyBody.com brings together the cream of Australian and US designers as well as unique Brit brands. We’ve bought together only the most unique and affordable, hard to get, international brands so they can now all be found on one Europe based site. There are just so many amazing and affordable Antipodean and US labels which British women shouldn’t have to miss out on.

What past experience did you use to launch your brand?
My mother had a women’s designer clothing store for 15 years and I used to help out with the buying and scouting for new brands from a young age, so fashion has always been a strong interest. I went on to work as a journalist and then PR – experience which has been invaluable in terms of marketing the site. I also gained experience in web design and build, back at university which has also ended up being really useful.

How did you make the jump from writing about crime to your own fashion e-commerce business?
After three years of working as a newspaper reporter I became disenchanted with the industry, so made the jump into PR. I started out working on a mixture of medical and consumer accounts, before finally ending up working on accounts such as Durex and E45. I always had at the back of my mind that I wanted to work for myself and I knew the agency world wasn’t where I wanted to stay forever. I saw an opening in the e-commerce market, found an investor and just went for it.


Do you have any tips for people looking to start their own e-commerce business?
I think it’s really important that you find the right suppliers in terms of the web design, build and online marketing. There are a lot of companies out there who, if you’re not careful, will take advantage of any gaps in your knowledge and happily rip you off. Doing your research and speaking to a lot of people – especially those who have nothing to gain from you – is absolutely vital before committing and handing over any money.

Was it hard to get into the industry? Did anything make it easier/harder? I think anybody can start their own website, so long as you have the finances, the time and the drive. I think the one thing that is often underrated though is having the support of family and friends. As well as having their emotional backing and encouragement over what is quite a stressful period, being able to call upon their expertise and experience at the early stages can save you a significant amount of money.

BOE Magazine