Don’t Overlook the Impact of Maitre d’ PR

An attribute I see in effective PR people is a characteristic I call Maitre d’ PR

It’s the ability to plan ahead, or even fix on the spot the details of a meeting or an event where you want your guests to be comfortable and leave being impressed with their experience with you.  In one sense, it is the proverbial “Do unto others that which you would want them to do to you;” in another, it is aggressive common sense of doing the right thing and making sure your school or leaders look good in doing it.

My colleague and friend Ken Weir often notes that one part of his job was to make sure the floral arrangements at special events were weeded of any dying flowers and positioned for the best view by their audience. And pundit Erma Bombeck used to say never go to a physician with dying plants in the office waiting area. The attention to detail communicates competence (or not) in  many different ways to your varied audiences.

Who Has Time for This?

With the toll and the extra work of the budget season just ahead, Maitre d’ PR may seem trivial to some. But the more you can do to make your audiences at school and board presentations feel comfortable, the better chance you will have of making a more effective presentation to them.

Bad Example Makes My Point

Unfortunately, I sat through this situation many times during my time as an active parent in my sons’ k-12 education.

A parent meeting is expecting up to 100 people, but only sets up chairs for 50; and the custodian, who was in charge of chairs, was called to another building for an emergency. More than 150 parents attended the meeting. At the same meeting, the microphone and speaker system did not work and the presenter kept tapping on the microphone and announcing, “Now, can you hear me? ”  Presenter abandoned the microphone and now we cannot hear her creating a buzz of, “What did she say?”  throughout the room. Same meeting, the handout is riddled with typos and only 50 were printed. The presentor, a guidance counselor, mentions that she would be available for questions directly after the meeting, and one parent monopolized 20 minutes with inane questions. Consequently, many other parents became frustrated and left. The subsequent parent newsletter, a week later, notes that the meeting was a success as 150 parents attended.

It Doesn’t Have to Be That Way

All of the above items are true, but they all did not happen in just one meeting. My point is that it does not have to be that way if leadership practices Maitre d’ PR.

We need to anticipate and visualize each situation we are planning. What would you, as a parent or tax patron, be pleased with if you were on the receiving end of your activity, speech, meeting, etc. Always prepare for situations and pay attention to the details in making your audiences feel as comfortable as you make them when it comes to board and school presentations as well as the normal open houses, parent conferences and yes, staff meetings.

Lack of thinking ahead on how to treat people makes parents and others think, “What were they thinking?”

And the answer often is, “Well, they were not thinking or caring about us.”

Rich Bagin, APR

NSPRA Executive Director

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