Teach Your Clients Well: 5 Ways PR Pros Must Think Like Teachers

Caitlin Jarvi

I listened as they were mentioned time after time throughout the presidential debates. I watched them as they protested for their rights as they marched down the streets of Chicago. Teachers. In the fall of 2012, I had the opportunity to participate in a project that involved chatting with a dozen course instructors for one of HC’s clients, the CCIM Institute. A

After wrapping up phone calls with these teachers, I recognized a common theme: each was extremely passionate about their role and the impact they were able to make on their students.

This realization wasn’t a new one for me—growing up with a mom who taught second grade for over 36 years, I was constantly around her tight-knit crew of teacher friends, listening in as they shared stories about the stresses of being a teacher: budget cuts, the continuous late nights of planning for their next unit, difficult parents and the list goes on and on. But, those statements were always, always, always followed with a positive and honorable statement about how those hurdles were indeed, “Ohhh so worth it.”

Because, if just one student was impacted by their teaching, well, then those hurdles didn’t matter one bit. I think every teacher that I know would agree that making an impact and sharing knowledge is what they strive for.

While us PR folk may not be built to do things like stand in front of 30+ students every day and teach a lesson on the constitution, I can’t help but notice a few similarities between our two professions:

  1. Preparing others for specific scenarios: While teachers are equipping their students with the knowledge and know-how to thrive in the real world, PR professionals are training and preparing our clients on how to succeed when a situation presents itself. Opportunity for a cover story? We’ll teach you how to use the right key messages to get your business objectives across to your audiences. Facing a crisis? We’ll create a plan and prepare talking points that properly address your needs.

  2. Helping others find their strengths: A primary goal for a teacher is to help students find and understand their strengths. This is something PR practitioners do on a daily basis for our clients. While we work with clients that specialize in certain areas or are strong in their particular industry, we as PR professionals are always looking for talents within them that we can bring out and highlight to the media, internally within their company or to consumers and business partners. Some of the best clients are those who end up doing things that they never thought they would do, and it makes us so proud to watch them as they learn to stretch and go beyond their normal boundaries.

  3. Review, review…and review some more: Whether grading papers or reviewing next week’s lesson plans, being a teacher typically comes along with a trusty box full of red pens and a keen eye for correct grammar. The same rings true with PR professionals. Although we may not be grading math problems or reading through essays, many days go by where we’re editing bylines, proofreading pitches and reviewing communications plans.

  4. Facilitating clear communications practices: Having open communications with students is so important for teachers as they direct a classroom discussion and have individual conversations for specific student needs. Good communication means that there is useful information going back and forth. The same goes for PR professionals: If we have clear communication with our clients, and vice versa, strategic plans are made, projects are executed and goals are met.

  5. Goal setting: Teachers set goals for themselves and for their students. When it comes to success, both parties need to be on the same page and have compatible views regarding those goals. The teacher wants to help the student excel, the PR professional wants to help the client do the best job that he or she can and help to deliver the best results.

While we may not be shaping the life of a child every single day at work, PR professionals are always working to prepare our clients for what lies ahead. Sometimes we, too, endure hurdles in our jobs, but those hurdles are always, always, always worth it when we can make a positive impact for our clients.

Caitlin Jarvi is a senior account executive at
 Henson Consulting and provides branding, strategy, writing and engagement expertise in a variety of industries, including technology, food & nutrition, healthcare, insurance and finance. You can follow her on Twitter at @caitlinjarvi

  • sergej danilov

    Thank you for this, you found true analogies between these two professions.