Imagine that after years of being the living room “Jeopardy!” champ, you are a contestant and win a game. I don’t have to imagine it, because it actually happened to me.
It was amazing and fun to be part of a game show I watched since I was a teenager. Yet, my time on “Jeopardy!” also demonstrated a likeness to my professional practice of public relations.
What Is… “Anything Can Happen?”
From the audition to being on the show, my experience on “Jeopardy!” was a mix of happy and not-so-happy occurrences. Answering the clue correctly, in the form of a question, of course, was a happy occurrence. Not answering the clue correctly, and seeing my fellow contestants ring in before me and answer the clue correctly, were not-so-happy occurrences.
Public relations is similar. Having a media outlet publish or broadcast a story on a client is a happy occurrence. Getting silence from the media isn’t.
Silence or not, a communicator has to be ready for anything. This is where preparation comes in—creating accurate press releases and collateral and preparing the client for media interviews. You can’t control what happens on a game show or in PR, but preparation helps you to meet any challenges you will face.
What Is… “You Get Lucky?”
In the course of my game, I landed on a Daily Double, and—luckily—I answered it correctly. When Final Jeopardy came along, I made a guess, and again, luckily it was correct and I won the game.
The same can be said about public relations. When a lucky break comes along, it feels great. Get a response from a reporter within minutes of sending out information about your client? Lucky you. While luck doesn’t take the place of due diligence, it is nice when preparation meets opportunity.
What Is… “Things Don’t Work Out the Way You Want?”
During the second game, another contestant had a much better “Jeopardy!” game than I. In fact, he dominated the entire game, built a substantial lead and was able to win, despite the fact that no one knew the Final Jeopardy question.
The same thing can happen to public relations professionals. Silence from the media when it comes to pitches is not what we want. The death of a public figure happening within days of a planned major announcement is something we really don’t want. Don’t get me started on crisis situations.
When things aren’t working out the way you want, make adjustments, if possible. Not getting traction on the pitches you are sending out to the media? Change the wording of the email, subject line or call reporters.
When your announcement comes on the heels of a prominent person’s death, it may be necessary to pause or reschedule, and let the news event progress.
It would be nice if due diligence always led to positive results, just as it would be nice if I won my second and subsequent games. Both in public relations and on a game show, things don’t always work out the way you want.
Being on “Jeopardy!” was a once in a lifetime experience that I will always treasure. While working in PR can be similar to being on “Jeopardy!,” the ultimate prize for communication professionals is seeing how our efforts positively impact the organizations we work for—and that’s priceless.
Ilena Di Toro, MBA, APR is a public relations specialist at Debbie Goetz Media Connections, LLC. Di Toro was a contestant on season 39 (2023) of the game show “Jeopardy!”.