It’s earnings season and public companies are announcing their earnings for the first quarter of the year. Viewing the headlines on which companies have met, surpassed, or fell short of analyst expectations got me to thinking about the art of managing expectations and how this is an invaluable skill for PR professionals, and generally in life. Whether the expectation is “Get me on GMA” or “I want a ring,” it’s human nature to want and to have those wants fulfilled. Unfortunately, things don’t always work in our favor and as a PR professional, sometimes a reality check for clients is in order. Let’s play a little game called “Realistic or Reaaallly?” that outlines scenarios looking at some of the expectations people—clients or friends—may have that make us scratch our heads.
Scenario 1: You’re meeting your platonic guy friend’s girlfriend for the first time. You’ve heard all about her and assume that since you and your friend have been friends since you were in diapers, that she’s totally psyched to meet you too. You arrive at the restaurant and greet her with a huge smile and gush “it’s so great to meet you!” as you’re going in for the hug. Not so fast! Honey is not feeling you. She gives you a no teeth fake smile and a “hey.” You’re taken aback by this and look at your friend who is visibly uncomfortable, but does nothing to make the situation better. You expect him to apologize, but he doesn’t and says you’re being difficult. Is your expectation realistic?
Scenario 2: Your client has a huge launch on the books for months, then an unforeseen tragedy happens. Let’s say it’s the unfortunate earthquake and Tsunami in Fukushima, Japan. You advise against continuing with the launch, but the client insists despite your counsel. Because of the PR rockstar you are, you score an exclusive on what is essentially a product launch by tying a natural news hook to it. The story turns out to be an awesome article and is picked up by the online version of a very prominent news outlet, which has over 8 million unique visitors monthly, 6 million more than its print counterpart’s circulation. You explain to the client that in the age of iPad’s, Twitter and shrinking print readership, that this is a score. The clients reaction? “Uh, yeah ok, we need it in print.”
We may all handle these situations in different ways, but being anything less than honest (in a diplomatic way of course) when trying to navigate through unrealistic expectations is unacceptable. As good friends you should be able to share candid feelings with each other and as PR professionals or any professional for that matter, there is a responsibility to appropriately counsel your client even if your advice may not be well-received initially. REALISTIC or REAAALLY? You tell me. Leave me your thoughts in the comments section.