By Guest Columnist CHRIS SCHRODER, a former newspaper reporter and publisher, is president of Schroder Public Relations in Midtown Atlanta and chief operating officer of SaportaReport.com
I fancy myself to be a professional communicator – and after 22 years as a newspaperman and 9 years of running my own public relations firm in Midtown Atlanta, I suppose I have a little bit of “street cred.”
But it doesn’t take long for me to be humbled, particularly by my 94-year-old mom.
While I was working for six daily newspapers and then my own family of neighborhood newspapers, it was all about “breaking the news” or “telling the story.” In PR, it’s all about the “messaging,” i.e., getting a brand or a few important words seared correctly into the minds of our customers, whomever they may be.
Over Memorial Day weekend, I was “professionally communicating” with my mom, telling her I hated to miss sharing a hot dog with her and my siblings, but my wife Jan and I had planned to take Jan’s son and daughter to the Chattahoochee River to go kayaking. After all, it was a hot weekend day and we wanted Chris and Catherine to try out Jan’s Christmas present: two kayaks.
A few days later, I was cycling on my normal neighborhood route, when I saw my brother, Mike, at his mailbox. I asked him how the Monday Hot Dog event was.
“Great,” he said. “We asked Mom if you and Jan were coming. She said she didn’t think so – you and Jan were taking Chris and Catherine waterboarding.”
I called Mom to clear up the messaging. “I don’t remember saying that,” she confessed, laughing. “But it does sound like something I might say.”
It’s not the first time my messaging has not traveled correctly through my mom. I remember when I told her I was able to avoid congestion on Atlanta’s highways when I had Jan with me in the car because we were eligible for the recently expanded High Occupancy Vehicle – or HOV – lanes.
Mom was bragging to someone that I loved being eligible for Atlanta’s “HIV lanes.”
And then there was the time my young family had signed up for my company’s Health Maintenance Organization, or HMO. When my kids were young and suffering through a series of bouts with strep throat, Mom was consoling.
“It’s so great you all signed up for the HBO program. It has really paid off!” Mom observed.
PR can be a challenging business sometimes. It’s important to get just the right messaging associated with your client’s product or service. Success is usually measured when people you run into casually recite back the exact words you have launched into the marketplace.
As you might observe, I still have a ways to go in getting the message just right – at least with my lovely mom!