‘Facing Failure: An art PR professionals need to learn & imbibe’

Success ke baad ka plan sabke paas hai…lekin agar galti se fail ho gaye, toh failure se kaise deal karna hai koi baat hi nahi karna chahta,” said the late Sushant Singh Rajput as Anirudh (Anni) Pathak in Chhichhore (2019). It simply translates to Everyone has a plan after achieving success…but if one fails, no one wants to talk about dealing with failure.”

PR successes & failures

The line is quite reminiscent of the PR world, where more often than not, there is a mismatch between ‘Planned’ and ‘Achieved’, wherein ‘Planned’ weighs more than ‘Achieved’. This actually has nothing to do with an individual’s or a team’s capabilities. The very nature of the PR profession is such that many a time the planned input A does not result in the planned output B.

When something good is achieved, the mood is upbeat. There are numerous ‘Good work’; ‘Well done…keep it up’ and ‘Thank you so much’ messages floating around. And there are those usual ‘I only did it’ and ‘My idea worked’ kind of individual claims to that success.

But when something does not work out as planned, there is a deafening silence. No one really wants to react to a client’s stinker (which is quite natural when something goes wrong)…and no one wants to take responsibility for such on-the-job failures. This ‘abnormal quiet’ post such failures is what irks many. In a client – agency relationship, the client starts getting a feel that the agency is shirking away from responsibility…which is not at all a favourable situation to be in for any agency.

It’s important to acknowledge failure (small or big); talk about it between team members, and also relevantly with clients; and most importantly figure out a way to correct whatever went wrong.

The most precious school lesson

March 8, 1989 was the day when failure and I formally met each other face-to-face for the first time…when I was not granted promotion from Class 8 to Class 9, and had to repeat another year in Class 8.

My world seemed to have come to an end then. There was nothing more to look forward to in life. Those were shameful moments for me…among friends and relatives; and that family friend’s son who was everything wicked a middle school or high school student could be, but who had not formally failed like I had, and hence was considered to be a ‘Hero’ in that competitive comparison scenario. Then there were those who never understood the value of education or knowledge, but found infinite joy in my failure. Needless to say, the ones who made fun of my failure were more in number than those who took a sympathetic or empathetic stance.

Three very important lessons I learnt from that failure back then…

1) The value of time…a year to be precise

2) The fact that failure never comes all of a sudden. There are enough warnings (I had been promoted from Class 7 to Class 8 a year ago with a ‘strict warning’) and signals which we consciously or subconsciously choose to ignore; and most importantly

3) The failure needs to be faced…there’s no escape from it

But the best (based on experience) lesson that I learnt over the years is that THERE’S LIFE AFTER FAILURE, though it may not seem so at that failure moment.

Face it

Few years ago, an industry story came out in a very prominent newspaper. For some reason, one of the clients (who was a perfect fit for the story) my team was handling back then, got missed in the story. Spokespersons of companies who weren’t as big or innovative in the space as our client had got quoted. When we saw the story that morning, the first thought that flashed in our minds was “We are going to get it bigtime from the client.” But there was no call, e-mail or WhatsApp from the client. We decided to proactively face it. We called our Corporate Communications connect at the client’s end and requested for a face-to-face meeting. When we met, we could clearly see that the client spokesperson was unhappy about not being part of the story. We made no excuses and tendered an unconditional apology, clearly mentioning that the mistake (miss) was on our part…and that we’ll make up for it with a standalone story in the same publication. We also assured them that we’ll take every step to ensure that they are not missed out in any relevant industry story going forward.

We did deliver on the standalone story and also managed to get them quoted in a couple of good industry stories over the next month or so. But in all of this, that proactively tendered apology was what won the client’s trust back for us.

Last Word

Going through a failure on the professional or personal fronts is certainly a setback. But at such times, it’s imperative to understand that these setbacks don’t define an individual or her / his abilities. It’s important to acknowledge the negative effects (failure) of one’s actions and avoid repeating those very actions.

The views and opinions published here belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the publisher.

Vijay Shekhar
Vice President at Concept Public Relations
With over 23 years of experience as a communications professional, Vijay has always been on the consultancy side of the table and has worked on a wide slate of accounts spanning across sectors. He holds a B. Com and an MBA (Human Resources) from the University of Pune.

Vijay likes to watch old Hindi classic films and listen to old Hindi film songs, and has an enviable collection of both of these. He enjoys reading autobiographies and biographies, and also short stories, his favourite authors being R. K. Narayan, Munshi Premchand, Leo Tolstoy and Guy de Maupassant. Vijay also has a hobby of collecting news clippings (from newspapers and magazines) of important events across the globe…events that can be truly classified as ‘Breaking News’ or ‘Front Page News’.

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