This summer I am studying abroad in Paris and Tuesday marked one week since my arrival. Within a week, I have learned a lot, made countless mistakes, have enjoyed many adventures and have stuffed myself full of more bread and butter than one should be allowed to eat in a lifetime. Throughout the highs and the lows of my trip thus far, it occurred to me that several of the lessons I have learned can be applied to the field of PR because believe it or not, the Paris metro can teach you a few things about social media and crepes, besides being sinfully delicious, can offer some insight to innovation in the workplace.
4 Lessons on PR from a Parisian Perspective:
1. Clear and concise communication is key when communicating with your audiences (or the French waiter who doesn’t speak a lick of English). All too often, we pollute the messages we send with overcomplicated words and terminology that are not always accessible to the publics we are communicating with. Put away your thesaurus with the fancy synonyms, throw your technical jargon out of the window and stick to the basics. The same rule is applied to ordering in a French restaurant… don’t even bother asking for additions, substitutions or for “free” tap water, because most likely you will confuse the waiter and wind up with duck instead of chicken and a 35€ tab for all the delicious “free” tap water you just drank.
2. Social media has several available channels, however not all of them may reach your targeted destination (much like the Metro and its 9 multicolored, intersecting lines that will take you to the Chinese district instead of the Eiffel Tower if you aren’t careful). Just because all of these channels exist does not mean that all of them should be utilized when communicating with your publics. Certain channels are frequented by specific demographics more than others, therefore construct your message in the channel that is most appropriate for your audiences. If you are trying to reach a young professional demographic, Twitter or LinkedIn might be more appropriate than using Myspace or Facebook, just as taking line 7 might on the Metro might be a better option the next time you want to visit the Eiffel Tower, although I’m not complaining about accidentially wandering through Chinatown in Paris by any means.
3. Innovation and creativity is essential when constructing and executing campaigns, however realize when certain ideas aren’t as successful as you had hoped (such as a Kirsch soaked crepe with passion fruit icecream and a fresh fruit medley… sounds good in theory but is terrible in reality). As PR professionals, it is our job to ensure that we are on top of the latest trends and that we continue to push the envelope in terms of creativity and innovation, always searching for the next great idea. However, every new idea isn’t necessarily always a good one and it is our jobs to realize when to continue to push the envelope and when its best to seal it up and move onto another one. When you continue to force something that isn’t meant to work, it can often leave a sour taste with your clients and/or audiences, much like the Kirsch-soaked crepe that left my tastebuds confused and in despair. But when you find an idea that works, run with it, because every so often you come across an ingenious idea, much like the nutella, raspberry, strawberry and vanilla icecream gastronomic invention that must have descended directly from crepe heaven.
4. Lastly, when you make a mistake, acknowledge your error and apologize (just as Je suis désolé has become one of the phrases I use most frequently over here). We all make mistakes. Rather than trying to avoid them, cover them up or pretend they never happened, it is always best to admit any faults, errors or mistakes while vowing not to make the same mistake again. This is how credibility and trust is created and earned with your publics (and the Parisians). So the next time you tweet something inappropriate (or stand on the wrong side of the escalator designated specifically for those who are running because they are in a hurry), apologize, move on and most importantly… never do it again.
For those who have spent time abroad, are there any PR lessons you have learned from your travels? Let us know!