Failing productively in PR

Failing productively in PR

Charlotte Stoel

Charlotte Stoel

There is a phrase often used in our industry – ‘PR is not a science, it’s an art’. Essentially, we’re saying that you can’t apply a formulae to PR as there are huge amounts of varying factors to consider. You can have all the right aspects of a good PR campaign lined up just to be gazumped by a national crisis, leapfrogged by a competitor or that day your website goes down. OK, those are extreme cases, however, PRs mustn't assume that everything will always align in their favour.

[caption id="attachment_9352" align="alignright" width="214"]Gary_Klein Gary Klein[/caption]

Having listened to almost the entire back catalogue of freakonomics podcasts, I came across an interesting technique called ‘pre-mortem’ which essentially helps you identify points of weakness in projects that could lead to failure. Invented by the psychologist Gary Klein, it’s a very simple technique where you ask all involved in a project to imagine themselves in the future where the project has ended in complete failure. With this image in people’s mind, now you ask why has it’s all gone wrong. This isn’t the usual exercise of what might go wrong; it’s already gone wrong and the team is being asked why.

This technique, at a basic level, helps you anticipate issues. A more important output, as Gary Klein suggests, is how it helps people on the project who have concerns, voice these concerns without seeming negative or disloyal. "Unlike a typical critiquing session, in which project team members are asked what might go wrong, the premortem operates on the assumption that the 'patient' has died," Gary Klein explains.

For PR and marketing professionals, adding this step before green-lighting a project is a no-brainer. It’s quick, it’s simple and with that prospective hindsight you’re in for a better chance of succeeding. This extra step also empowers your team to have a voice, thus ensuring they’re fully bought into the campaign before it launches.

Advanced hindsight is a beautiful thing.

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