Pete Salmon

I Work for Spin Sucks and I Am Not a PR Expert

By: Pete Salmon | January 24, 2017 | 

I Work for Spin Sucks and I Am Not a PR ExpertThere are three recurring statements people have said to me.

Each one instantly crushes my soul:

  • I think we should just be friends.
  • I am disappointed in you.
  • They are hiring you to be an expert.

Discussing the first statement might be the most interesting, but poorly targeted.

Discussing the second would create a swirl of labels around me, including the one Laura Petrolino would use, “momma’s boy.”

So, let’s explore the third statement—and, more pointed, they are hiring you to be a PR expert.

I Am Not an Expert at Anything

1. I Don’t Have the Discipline

To be an expert, I believe one must push past the boundary where most others stop.

Pushing past the boundary takes an extraordinary amount of endurance and will.

Like many others, perhaps some of you, I am satisfied with stopping right at the boundary line. 

2. I Don’t Have Singularity of Interests

I am not suggesting an expert needs to be locked away in a laboratory pursuing a singular obsession.

Nor am I suggesting an expert cannot have a range of interests or even expertise in more than one realm.

I am saying I don’t have an interest I will pursue at the cost of other interests.

Nor will I take an interest and follow it to its furthest extent.

Something else will always divert my attention and gain the temporary bulk of my interest.

Life to me is a grand bait and switch.

3. I Am Scared to Be an Expert

I have met wonderful experts throughout my life.

Many of them are humble and kind.

But my fear of becoming particularly a PR expert is the infinitely small possibility that I would not take after these kind experts.

What if, one day in all my expertise, I can no longer utter the words, “I don’t know”?

What if I became a PR expert and started to think deep down, “I may not be the greatest gift to the world, but I am in the top five”?

Why Admit This Character Flaw on My Company’s Blog?

That thought just occurred to me.

Good question.

Maybe because I consider myself an advocate, a believer, and a fighter for our business, this blog, and every one of our clients and students.

Every army needs a general on her white steed with a master battle plan in her hand.

But an army also needs a person or two to sample the piercing power of the enemies’ lances. 

If You Are Not a PR Expert, Become an Advocate and a Fighter

I can’t tell you how to become an expert—PR expert, or otherwise.

There are plenty of expert blog articles and books which do that.

But I can tell you how to become an advocate and a fighter for your company, and your clients.

1. Fail Often

Take this blog post. I had an idea and I followed it.

It could fail miserably. It might be stupid.

If I were a PR expert, I may not be able to comfortably and publicly experiment.

Failing is at least twice as instructive as success.

Failing often reignites my desire to make my next iteration rock.

Failure ups the ante.

It makes me more invested.

2. Be a Passion Sponge

I have passions, but they are small.

I am attracted to people with big passions.

They have what I lack, so I stay close to them and absorb their passionate excesses.

The great thing about a project-based line of work is you meet so many people with such varied passions.

I pay attention to these clients and co-workers, and I drink their Kool-Aid.

Before you know it, I become an extension of their brand and I fight for their brand.

3. Request Feedback When You Know it is Negative 

One of the great things about working for a strong boss is she is not bashful when informing me when I stink it up.

I usually know when it is coming; I know the routine.

The ability to take constructive criticism without excuse is not dying, it is dead.

Real dead.

I accept negative feedback.

And own it.

I turn it into an opportunity, or even a dare.

Much like “Fail Often” above, the stakes are raised, so deal me in.

4. Perpetually Learn

I am always an expert-in-training.

I will never get to the promised land, but I will get close enough to look down upon it.

Once I do, I will turn around and check out what is below the neat sedimentary rocks at my feet.

As a PR expert-in-training, I listen.

I model behavior.

I am drawn to those who teach me.

5. Get in Over Your Head

I am often uncomfortable with tasks at work.

This is because many of them lie beyond my comfort zone.

It’s a bit of a cliché, but I do feel discomfort brings growth and knowledge.

And I have all weekend to do things well within my comfort zone.

Conquering a new work task is normally more memorable than the score of the football game I just spent three hours watching.

Getting in over my head forces me to ask for help.

By doing so, I reinforce the bonds I have with co-workers and clients.

6. Say Yes Without Pause

I have learned to say yes to my wife without pausing first.

If I exhibit the slightest of pauses, she equates that with wavering.

Wife to me, “Honey, do you want to volunteer outside the library to collect dimes for small pets who don’t have winter booties?”

Me (instantaneously), “Do I ever, honey.”

I try to do this at work also.

Say yes immediately and worry about how later.

7. Surround Yourself with Over-Achievers

Knowing, or not knowing, something doesn’t always matter when you know how and where to find the answer.

Speaking of which, my goal for the new year is to master the PESO model.

Anyone have Gini Dietrich’s email address?

I hear she’s a PR expert.

About Pete Salmon

Pete Salmon is an owned media manager at Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. He also is a contributor to the award-winning PR blog, Spin Sucks.

  • paulakiger

    I really feel like an opportunity was overlooked for the graphic of this post (which is pretty cool as is but …… I mean …….PASSION SPONGE??? oh the possibilities!). Seriously though, I agree w/you here Pete. I too am drawn to people who are wholehearted in their approach and are motivated out of loving what they do. Thx for sharing your thoughts — it’s hardly a failure!

  • Thank you for sharing this perspective, Pete. It is definitely not one that is usually addressed. There are MANY articles about why you should and need to be the expert.

    I like your request feedback point. I’m continually asking for feedback/constructive criticism. But, unfortunately, I’m met with “you are doing great. Just keep doing what you’re doing.” This drives me up a wall! There is NO way I am doing it all right and we all have areas to improve. When someone can’t give you feedback it communicates they aren’t invested in you or they don’t actually know what you do.

    • Pete Salmon

      You need someone with Petro Power. Laura knows that feedback is essential and she calls it likes she sees it. That is a valuable asset to whomever you report to. I might have to become an expert, Laura demands it regardless 🙂

      • Ha! Yes, I do!

        And to your point Hanna, we believe in constant feedback. On good and bad. That’s the only way anyone improves or clearly understands expectations.

  • So many great points here. I’ve written a ton about failure and I’m a big advocate of living in a state of “uncomfortable” most of the time—in life, in work.

    I know I’ve said this before, but I try to live by the motto, that if I don’t feel like I’m on the edge of failing, I’m not pushing my limits hard enough.

    And the definition of “expert” is a tricky one. Theoretically, is anyone ever an expert? Probably not, we all are on a process to improve. But in service business it is through that knowledge, and even through that quest for constant improvement that we best serve our clients. I guess the point is, “being an expert” isn’t an end point, it’s an evolution. Just like with our client’s campaigns: We work a strategy we believe to be the best with the knowledge we have, we learn, we grow, we improve.