The worst career mistakes I've made in 25 years of doing PR for Apple, PayPal, Visa, and more big brands
Courtesy of Cameron CraigWe all make mistakes, even us talented communications practitioners with years of experience working for big brands like Apple, Visa, PayPal, and Polycom.
If feels awful when they happen, but the trick is to learn from them, take steps to make sure they won't happen again, and move on.
Here's a list of doozies from my otherwise illustrious and colorful career.
Client falls asleep during interview
I started my career in Sydney, Australia, which is a 22-hour flight from London, England.
The CEO of one of our agency's biggest clients, headquartered in London, was flying into Sydney for business meetings and had agreed to do some media interviews when he arrived.
It occurred to me that this was a bad idea. I pressed on because we had a great media opportunity lined up with a reporter from one of Australia's largest newspapers. As expected, the CEO was tired when he arrived. The interview started off okay until the reporter left the room to take a phone call.
When he came back, the CEO had fallen asleep in his chair. The interview was aborted.
Lesson learned: People are human. Treat them as such when preparing schedules.
The leaked file
I once worked for a big company that was acquiring another company. We were working with one of the top three PR agencies on an announcement plan.
The agency needed some information quickly, so I sent them a deck that had details about the deal and a bit about our company's acquisition plans and potential other targets. Someone at the agency put the file on their shared server.
A junior specialist took a look and saw that one of the potential future acquisition targets was a company that employed his friend. He shared that information with his friend.
Lesson learned: Share sensitive information on a need to know basis. I should have taken more time to delete the last few slides of the deck before I sent it to the agency. Even though we might have signed confidentiality agreements and they were a major firm, stuff happens. It's better not to take the risk.
Fumbling the pitch
One time I was working on a pitch for a big potential technology industry client. My team had done a lot of research, built a solid slide deck and were feeling confident about meeting with the potential client. Our work paid off.
We met with the client and they liked our pitch. But things soon went south when they started asking follow up questions. It seems an important article on the client had run in a major trade publication earlier that week and we were all obviously unaware of it.
Lesson learned: Continue researching your potential client until the moment before you meet with them. As PR folks, we're expected to be on top of the news and have a point of view. No excuses, ever.
Venue from hell
Many years ago, I had to book a press conference venue at short notice for an important client. I called a nice hotel that I knew the client would like and secured the last open meeting room. On the morning of the press conference, as I walked into the hotel, I was greeted with disapproving looks by my client and coworkers. The room was cramped and didn't have any natural light. Everyone was unimpressed.
Lesson learned: Always do a recce. (That's fancy PR speak for inspecting the venue before you lock it in.)
Too many hands at the all hands
Let's not forget internal communications when confessing our blunders.
This one will be familiar with anyone who's ever worked for a technology company. I was helping to prepare the product team for a 30-minute slot they had at our parent company's leadership meeting.
The head of product was a brilliant guy with a lot of energy, but his initial plan was too ambitious.
He wanted to have his complete team join him on stage. Each of them would have a speaking slot, and two would have live demos. I pushed back, but he said no. When it came to showtime, it was like watching a live trainwreck.
The first presenter was cocky and borderline offended the audience. The second presenter talked for much longer than his allotted time. The third presenter attempted to do a live demo that didn't work.
I could go on, but you get the picture. It was awful, ran over, and I received the same unfriendly stares that I did after booking that press conference room all those years ago.
Lesson learned: Push back even harder when executives try to do something that your gut says is too much risk or will not work. If you go through with it, no one will look good or win, including you.
Cameron Craig is a communications professional with 20+ years experience working with Apple, Visa, PayPal, Polycom and Yahoo. Formerly, he was a tour publicist for Johnny Cash. Follow him on Twitter at @Cam_CommsGuy, on LinkedIn, and http://www.asignaturestory.com.NOW WATCH: 6 cringe-worthy things interviewers hate seeing on résumés