Three years ago I rescued an eight year old black lab named Leo—and as the adage says, he rescued me right back. He was a 65 pound anxious wrecking ball who, when briefly left alone, ate my desk chair, raided my walk-in closet, and brought out and destroyed all my stored paper products. After the first few weeks, we were able to sort things out and develop a truce whereby I would help him get his mojo back and he would show me the wonders that are a dog. Through him, I’ve learned the merits of unconditional love. I’ve also picked up a few important life lessons that can easily be applied to the workplace. Here are five PR tips my dog taught me:
- Be loyal. Boy, when it comes to loyalty, Leo certainly scores high marks. But historically, there have been quite a storied dogs including Japan’s Hachiko, an Akita who is remembered for his remarkable loyalty to his owner which continued for many years after his owner’s death and Greyfriars Bobby, a Skye Terrier who supposedly spent 14 years guarding the grave of his owner.
In business, loyalty is a huge asset. I have had both staffers and clients who have remained loyal to my company for many years. As part of the equation, I find myself rewarding their loyalty. For the staffers, the rewards manifest themselves in promotions and pay raises; for the clients, it manifests in extraordinary personal time and results.
- Trust your instincts. On a very basic level, Leo has an instinct that runs like clockwork. If I am not out of bed by my usual 7AM, he gently jumps up and nuzzles me at exactly 7:30. He also reminds me daily that it is time for his 4PM walk, or Heaven forbid I am late for dinner, there is the nuzzle under my arm as I sit by my desk.
Just like Leo, trust your business instinct. You’ll know if the client is asking too much, if the editor is really on a deadline, and if your colleague is drowning and needs some extra encouragement.
- Perseverance. Leo likes nothing more than the nearly empty jar of Skippy peanut butter as a treat. He holds it between his paws and uses him long, snake-like tongue to patiently lick every remaining drop. The process takes him several minutes but by the time he finally relinquishes the jar, it is clean enough to be plunked into the recycling bin.
Perseverance is a quality that all good public relations professionals must acquire. As with any PR agency, you need the ability to go after that new business lead, follow-up with that elusive journalists, pursue that client for input, or mentor that less experienced colleague.
- Be enthusiastic. Leo’s enthusiasm sometime just makes me laugh. He’ll run for the ball with such gusto as to run right passed it. And when eating, he gulps each meal as if it were his last. Not to mention when I return from a brief outing without him, his jumps for joy make me love him even more.
Now I am not asking you to love your client, but I’ll tell you that a client will surely love you if you show enthusiasm for their company, product, ad campaign, and even children’s photos that are lined up on the desk. For a client’s birthday I once sent a humongous helium balloon with a small bucket dangling beneath filled with champagne and chocolate kisses. Everyone in the company wanted to know who their PR agency was.
- Go outside and play. Even though Leo spends most of his time curled under my desk on his comfy dog bed, at the end of our day, we are both ready to go out and play.
I tell my colleagues that working in public relations is not like operating in a hospital. No one dies as a result of our profession. Therefore, take a minute or two, unplug from your computer and cellphone, and go out and play. Have fun!