PR Insider: Taking Cues For Effective PR from the Parenting Handbook

Carrie Fox PR
Carrie Fox

As the owner of a bustling communications agency, I rarely get the opportunity to break away from my work for an extended period of time— nor do I want to. However, last August, after the birth of my second daughter, I gladly shut down the computer, put down my devices and enjoyed some time fully focused on my family.

While my sleep quality diminished over those several weeks of maternity leave, my inspirations were sky high, as I found myself comparing the role of a parent to the role that I play in my day job as “protector” of our client’s brands.

Indeed, to be exceptionally good in this industry, it takes patience, persuasiveness, and great intuition – not all that different from some of the most important parenting skills. Come to think of it, there are more similarities between the techniques of good PR practitioners and parents than one might expect:

  1. PR, Like Parenting, is a Juggling Act: Just like we need to juggle the schedules and demands of our children, the very best PR pros know how to juggle a myriad of different issues simultaneously, without ever losing their cool. Whether we’re coaching a client through a crisis situation, working to land a perfectly messaged story, or managing multiple personalities on a major account, we often need to serve as the eye of the storm— just as our children require of us— to avoid any major meltdowns along the way.
  2. PR and Parenting Both Require a Little Over-Communication: When you’re dealing with a toddler, saying something once is rarely enough. You’ve got to communicate to them once, in a tone that they’ll respond to, and then often state your request again…and again. (“Brush your teeth, kiddo. I said, brush your teeth.”) It’s not all that different when making a pitch to the media, or getting an important point across to your team. The best PR pros know how to make their pitch, in a tone and style that will resonate with their audience, and then make it again, sounding persuasive without sounding repetitive.
  3. PR and Parenting Often Require Management of the “Problem Child”: We’ve all had projects along the way that didn’t go quite as expected. Perhaps it was a writing project that required endless rounds of review, a website launch that got severely delayed, or a press event that went awry, despite weeks of preparation. The best PR pros know how to manage difficult situations well—working through the issues, and keeping the client calm along the way. (See above re: over-communication.
  4. PR Pros, Like Parents, Must Always Have an Answer to the Question “Why?”: Just as most three year olds like to constantly ask “But Why?”, PR professionals are used to having their clients and bosses require the same. And the best PR pros don’t just have an answer to the questions of “why;” they beat their clients to the punch by delivering a smart rationale for their recommendations. For instance, smart PR is not about getting a big media hit for the sake of getting a media hit, or writing a lengthy communications plan that just sits on a shelf. Our jobs require us to be smart about the tactics that we offer and, at any moment, to be able to explain why each tactic is relevant, and how it relates to the overall strategy.
  5. PR Pros and Parents Know that Messes Happen: Whether it’s this morning’s breakfast that ended up all over the floor, or the client crisis that hit just as you were getting ready to close up shop for the day, PR pros deal with their share of messes— big and small. The best PR pros know how to take it all in stride, offer calm counsel through the process, and then, when appropriate, move on to the next big thing.

There’s one more tip I know works well for both parenting and PR, and that’s the importance of sharing. And that’s where you come in.  Working parents, what tips would you lend to this list? Let me know in the comments and I’ll share my favorites in a future column.

Carrie Fox is the founder and president of C.Fox Communications, a small communications agency committed to telling the stories of its mission-driven clients in ways that make people stop, listen and care. Carrie can be reached at Follow her and the agency at @carriefox and @cfoxcomm, respectively.