I love reality television. From the Real Housewives to Top Chef and everything in between, I will give almost any over-produced “reality” show a chance. In the last year, I’ve found a new love with the History Channel’s show Alone.
If you’ve never seen an episode of Alone, here is the Cliff Notes version: Ten survivalists are isolated in the wilderness and try to last as long as possible.
Ok, I’ve been backpacking a few times – and though I’m not exactly one-with-the-wilderness and definitely in no way a survivalist, there are a lot of parallels I can draw between this and my work life.
I’m not saying that Bear Grylls could’ve been the Ivy Lee of the 21st Century, but… there are six things that PR practitioners can learn from survivalists.
Step 1: Prepare for the worst.
Sometimes, my incessant need to prepare for the worst comes off as pessimism. I promise, it isn’t. I like to have solutions to every possible pitfall that may be ahead of me – and survivalists do too. You’ve got to be ready for anything that may come your way. Put your pessimist hat on: Think of all the things that could go wrong, all the negative things that your stakeholders might think or say, and all the potential issues with your campaign. Then, prepare ways to fix it or have your messaging ready to explain it.
Step 2: Stay calm in the face of danger.
Things always go wrong – and that’s exactly what we spent so much time preparing for. We breathe, handle what needs to be handled, and never let anyone see us sweat. Note: If you do watch the show Alone, you’ve seen a few people panic over bears, or throw a tantrum when they tripped over a tree stump – they are not included in this list. Chill out people!
Step 3: Become an expert at improvisation.
You’ve got to be nimble and ready to problem solve at every twist and turn in your day. Oh… you didn’t bring the one thing I asked you to? No problem, I’ve got a box full of tricks and tools to make it work. A huge windstorm is kicking up in the middle of my event? Looks like we’re moving the kid’s craft area over here.
Step 4:Learn to love D.I.Y.
I haven’t gone as far as building a living room set out of bamboo – but close. Sometimes, I don’t have the budget for all of the things that I want. Instead, I create aerospace-inspired centerpieces, logo podium signs, and press conference media kits on my own.
Step 5: Be a great leader.
In a life-or-death situation, a leader always rises to the occasion to get control of the situation and provide direction on where they need to go. PR practitioners must be able to lead their team and the client through the campaign. If you aren’t a natural-born leader with the ability to command a room, you’re going to struggle to get your messages across.
Step 6: Enjoy it!
You’re in this career because you love it. It can be exhausting and challenging, but if you’re like me – you wouldn’t have it any other way. Take a moment every day to look around and enjoy the adventure.
Now, don’t tell me I never learned anything from watching reality television. [Bonus points: I have something to talk to my dad about on our Sunday night calls. ]