Savoring a huge win

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I was at General Motors headquarters last Wednesday when this 5,000-word company profile dropped in the annual “Fortune 500” issue of the venerable business magazine.

It was awesome to see the grins on the faces of the communications team around the conference room. You can try to play it cool, but on a placement this big, you can only hold back the emotion for so long.

The experience brought back memories of that cautious anticipation that comes when you’ve managed the development of a story, and you’ve been told to expect it tomorrow. You have every reason to hope it will be a good one for your employer, but you never take it for granted.

So you’re hitting “refresh” on the outlet’s home page all night. And when it’s finally posted, you don’t know whether to carefully consider every word (so you don’t miss something) or race through to get a general feel. Even though you know you’re going to read the entire thing five times in a row.

In this case, one of the GM media team leaders was told it would be posted in the morning. So he got up early, but it wasn’t there yet. During his drive to the office he checked again – there it was! So he pulled over and read the whole thing on his phone there on the side of the road.

The article provided several useful examples during the day as I walked them through training on media relations and PR writing. Each time I’m at GM headquarters I’m always impressed with the culture of lifelong learning. In one session, the person with the most experience and seniority admitted the most shortcomings. That made it safer for everyone else to ask the questions they otherwise would have stifled for fear of looking uninformed.

Too often in our business we’re forced to dwell on the negative. Journalists frequently complain about the outreach they get from PR people. Bosses habitually underappreciate how hard it is to do what we do. And when good news does get out, the spotlight usually shines on the subjects, not the person like you who earned the coverage.

So today you can review this Fortune piece and consider what it would be like to work on a major success like this. You can realize that something like this doesn’t just fall from the sky, even if you’re at a big company. It’s the product of lots of strategic effort (in this case, two years’ worth) and savvy.

And most of all, you can remember that big wins like this DO happen, and you’re just as much entitled to build the skills to earn them as anyone else. That’s why you read these posts, and that’s why I write them.

Cheers to my friends at GM. And here’s to your future, and your potential to land such a placement that’s just as significant for you in your sphere.

This article was originally published on May 31, 2018.