#PRFail: If You Are Doing These Things In Your PR Efforts, You Are Doing It Wrong

This article first appeared on CUinsight.com

If you are doing these things in your public relation efforts, you are doing it wrong:

Using long words when a short one will do.
We don’t “utilize” something…we use it. A longer, more complicated word slows down the reader and makes them work harder to understand. Make your sentences shorter and strive for a sixth grade reading level. That’s right. Many Americans read at that level, and if you are writing above it, you might lose them.

Starting your press releases (or any communication) with “We are pleased to announce…”
Yawn. Of course you are pleased. But why should anyone else care? Start with a statistic or a story. Refer to a recent news item and make it local. Tell your reader how your news is going to benefit them.

Not using visuals.
Photos, illustrations, graphics, infographics, video. The amount of visual content has skyrocketed in the last five years. Use it to your advantage. Sure, it takes time to create an infographic or snap and upload a photo. It’s worth it though, because it adds another element to your communication and can entice your audience to read more.

Hiring Help is Not a “Tip” For Getting it all Done

My real life: some days there are dirty dishes…everywhere.

In the past two weeks I’ve read two articles with headlines something like “Tips For Getting It All Done and Being in Bed by 9” and “Productivity Hacks for Moms.”

These articles promote spending quality time with their children, while carving out time to exercise, fix healthy meals and get eight hours of sleep. Great! What tips do you have for me?

Oh. Those headlines should have read like this: “How The 1% Gets It Done” and “I’m In Bed by 9 pm Because I Have a Nanny that Cleans and Does Laundry.”

Let me get this straight. Your “tip” is that you pay someone to clean, do laundry and help you “prep for dinner”?

I’m sorry – these are not “tips” or “hacks”  because last I heard the definition of “tip” is “a small but useful piece of practical advice” and a “hack” is “a clever solution to a tricky problem.” Hiring help is neither of these things and something most of us can not do. The majority of families do not have a line item in their budget for chef or nanny.

It’s a bit of a fairy tale, I would say. It’s definitely not my real life.

Fairy tale life:
My nanny watches my children, cleans, and does laundry…while I work.

My real life:
My children are in school all day, so I don’t need childcare. Sometimes my boys have to wear dirty clothes because there’s no clean laundry. If you came to my house you would might see dirty dishes, books, toys, dog hair, crumbs…

Fairy tale life:
Someone comes to my house and preps healthy, organic meals and helps me plan dinner.

My real life:
We eat a lot of scrambled eggs, grilled cheese, frozen stuffed pasta and homemade flatbread pizza. And by homemade, I mean I open the flatbread package, pour pasta sauce on it, top it with pepperoni and cheese and pop it in the oven. We often run out of fresh fruit and vegetables because I don’t make it to the grocery store. I do use the crockpot a lot, so there’s that.

Fairy tale life:
Since I don’t need to cook or clean much, and someone is watching my children, I can go to yoga or hit the gym most days.

My real life:
My alarm is set for 5:15 a.m. so I can exercise. Ask my husband how often I actually do that. If I wait until evening, it doesn’t happen either. I do try and take the dog for at least a 15-minute walk.

Fairy tale life:
I’m in bed by 9 p.m. so I can get a good night’s sleep.

My real life:
Ha ha! That’s a good one…in bed by 9 p.m.

It’s great that you can afford help. In fact, I’m jealous. But next time, call it what it is…and it’s not “tips” or “hacks.” It’s resources, money and fairy tales.

Everyone is a winner

Participation medalsI didn’t see James Harrison’s Instagram post about his kids getting trophies “just for participating.” But I guess it ignited a bit of a fire about everything from parenting practices, youth sports issues and the problem of overparenting.

“Participation trophies” are trophies or medals given to children in a sport or activity. They didn’t win a game. They didn’t earn high marks in a music competition. These trophies are for the kids that showed up. I’m with Harrison on this one (except I would have let my kids keep the trophies).

Here’s an example from my life: This summer, my 11-year-old attended a soccer camp. On the last day, all the campers got a medal.


Wearing the proper attire for a soccer camp? Showing up on time? Remembering a jug of water? What were these medals for?

If they would have singled out a few kids for “most improved” or “best goal” or “penalty kick shootout winner” that would be fine.

No. These medals were given to everyone who was there. Because they showed up.

News Flash: The real world does not reward people for showing up. The real world rewards people who work hard, get something done or show improvement. Does everyone who shows up for an interview get the job? Does everyone shows up every day for work get promoted? Does everyone who attends class for four years during high school get the diploma?

My boys have a bunch of these medals, more than 40 between them (pictured above). And I think it’s giving our children unrealistic expectations.

Now hold on…before your freak out and call me heartless and mean, I think participation awards are fine for young children. Starting about age 10, we’ve got to start tough love. Medals for 1st and 2nd place…maybe 3rd place if you are feeling generous.

My 13-year-old has singled out one of his medals. It’s the one his soccer team earned by coming in first place in a tournament. I asked him if he knew what participation trophies are (he did) and what he thought of them. He said, “They are stupid.”

If we continue this “everyone’s a winner” attitude, we are going to raise adults who think that everything they do is awesome, and all they have to do is “show up.”

They won’t learn that you win some, you lose some.
They won’t learn how to work hard, even through difficulty.
They won’t know how to fail.

Is this an extension of helicopter parents? We all just want our children to grow up to be happy, kind, resilient and resourceful adults, with minimal heartache and drama. Coddling, overprotecting and shielding them from failure or sadness is not going to do that because our children won’t know how to handle the situation, pick themselves up from a disappointment and carry on.

I grew up in the 80s. The winners got medals. The kids who didn’t win got a trip to Baskin Robbins for a consolation ice cream cone, if they were lucky.

How did we end up thinking that our children will be emotionally scarred for life and unable to function as an adult if they aren’t awarded for Every. Single. Thing?