About 10 years ago I launched the PR division of a branding company. One of our first major clients was Revlon. We were asked to pitch a project – the public relations promotion of an upcoming film partnership, the Bond epic “Die Another Day,” starring, among others, Halle Berry. Revlon product wasn’t placed in the film, but it featured the brand’s top spokesperson, so there was an opportunity of leveraging the connection.
The brand needed a PR group that had expertise in making the most of a theatrical promotional partnership. I had worked on the Ray-Ban/”Men In Black” film tie-in with huge success, so we were given a shot at the business. I remember sitting at a table with about 30 people from Revlon and pitching our business. When we left they voted and we got the job.
Then came the fun part, finding the right team, especially since I didn’t have one. At that point my “company” had only 3 employees, including myself, and it was a bit of a leap to get the business as the project was global in nature and we would be overseeing deployment of the program across the world. Long story short, we stayed calm, secured a great team and did an incredible job, garnering hundreds of millions of impressions and delivering millions in advertising value. It was a total blast - I even went to the London premiere, attended by the Queen herself.
What has this got to do with Halle?? Well, one of the ways we created television coverage was getting our own b-roll and packaging it in as many different ways as we could to distribute to a litany of media outlets. The brand was shooting an ad campaign for the film tie-in, so I went with a crew to gather my b-roll. Essentially, I would be interviewing Halle Berry. Well, she is one gorgeous lady in person. She has flawless skin and a beautiful smile and from what I can tell a gracious personality. On that occasion, and a few others, I was able to watch her in action. A person of her stature always seems to have a lot of hands hovering around, tweaking a garment, powdering a nose, teasing some hair, adjusting a stance. I don’t know about you, but that would drive me crazy. Not Ms. Berry though, she exhibited no spoiled star tantrums. She was total grace under pressure – or at least under a multitude of hands. Something we can all learn from!
In a people business you have to be for the people. I’ve spoken about this before, but I don’t think you can say it enough. It’s a hard balance to achieve. Clients are the basis of our business, so it goes without saying that we have to focus on them and their needs. But you can’t forget your own people.
With everyone under the gun these days it’s easy to lose sight of how a client’s fears around their business can spill over into their own accountability zone. I’m not saying there is a lot of finger pointing happening, but when a client is getting pressure they tend to pass that pressure on, it’s a normal human response. It’s also a normal human response for the owner of a company to pass that pressure down.
I say do your best to stop the madness. When things start to spiral, and they can, take a step back, look at historical data and make your decisions. I know this is something I have to do since I can tend to get myself into a lather. I think it’s critical to keep your own people accountable since that’s what’s happening with your clients, but it’s also important to remember to temper fear. Your long-term strategy is to grow good people, not just to keep your clients happy.