How to Keep Your Confidence Between PR Projects and Clients

anxietyI had lunch with a PR colleague last week and we did what we PR folks always do: talked shop, dished about our clients and ultimately built each other up. I have these sort of sessions often with my brothers and sisters in the public relations and marketing world, but for independent practitioners especially, I find it’s almost a required activity.

While lunching with my colleague, she said the most insightful thing.  One of the reasons our professional lives are filled with so much anxiety, aside from the fact that our jobs are built on countless uncertainties–the impossible to guarantee media coverage, the unforseen bad weather on the day of an outdoor event–is because we’re always trying to silence that annoying little voice in the back of our heads that says we’re only as good as our last project.

You know the drill. You do a great event, then another and another. But inevitably, you’re working on a project that was the victim of the organization’s poor planning, unrealistic expectations, or both.  The budget runs short and time runs out. You have to jerry-rig your way through, and you do, but you’re left with that unsavory taste in your mouth because as a PR professional, you take the good with the bad. You take full responsibility for the slightest mishap; and you’re understandably unnerved when the small  details don’t quite come together.

But you are not your last project, or even your next. Your career will not be judged on a tiny mistake, nor will it ultimately be gauged by a singular success. And since the big picture is so hard to see from the eye of the storm, here are a few ways to calm your nerves and boost your confidence when you’re in the middle of a public relations or marketing maelstrom.

Review the Home Runs: Every now and then, it does the ego good to glance back over your portfolio and take a gander at those projects that exceeded you and the client’s expectations.  Own that success and give yourself a pat on the back.

Learn from the Mishaps: Mistakes do happen, and often times they’re not your fault. Sometimes clients underestimate how much time or additional support they need. If you’re working on a project where this turns out to be the case, make a note of it.  If the project or event falls short, don’t beat yourself up for not being a superhero. Use that new knowledge to better prepare your next client and to make yourself better for the next project.

Manage Expectations: Something I hear all the time from veteran PR pros is that half of our job is educating clients. If you’re dealing with a client who wants you to deliver too much, remind them what your expertise is as well as how you fit into the scope of the project. If the client wants a Web site, either build that aspect into a proposal addendum, or refer him or her to a great web developer. But always remind him or her that you showed up to do great PR.

Remember Who You Are: There’s a reason why you’re in this business, and it’s not because you’re a workaholic who lives to get stressed out.  If you’re in this business and you’re successful, I’ll bet that you are resourceful, creative and organized. And I’ll also bet that you’re really great at what you do, which is why you get the work that your competitors don’t! Remind yourself of this when the going gets tough.

Get Perspective: When all else fails, call on a colleague who’s been there. Chances are, you just need a little perspective to see your project’s problem clearly. Your colleague may have recently faced a similar problem and have an answer ready for you. Or they may be able to help you to see that the problem is the client’s problem, not yours.

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