Deirdre Breakenridge, CEO, Pure Performance Communications
I first started pitching media back in 1988. One of my first assignments was to call up newspaper reporters to pitch a story about one of our author clients. Of all of the journalists to call, newspaper reporters were among the busiest with their super tight deadlines (even back then). It was my 2nd call, and the reporter hung up on me in mid-sentence. Experiencing his unpleasant tone and then the click at the other end of the line really bruised my young ego.
I thought to myself, “Is this normal? Are reporters all frustrated and angry people? Or, was it something I said or perhaps didn’t mention?”
What did I do to deserve that abrupt click at the other end of the line?
It was early in my career. I didn’t feel comfortable asking anyone at the agency these questions, let alone share the rejection I had encountered that day.
Same Questions, Just a Different Landscape
The rejection question still exists today, whether it is a part of your media relations or influencer relations with bloggers. There are questions asked by every PR generation. Sure, it’s a new age, there are different channels and advancing technologies, but some of the questions are timeless. For this very reason, I began mentoring to help students and professionals navigate these questions and to help ease that “sting” from rejection. I also wanted to share ways to avoid the abrupt click at the other end of the telephone.
However, when I started mentoring in the 1990s, it was a one-on-one relationship, and helping your mentee was usually in-person or by telephone. Today, you can find mentoring around every corner of the social media universe. From platform to platform, there’s mentoring on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, blogs and more.
My goal was to answer the timeless, the timely and the pressing questions, just on a bigger scale. This is the reason why I wrote my book, Answers for Modern Communicators. When the questions continued to pour in over the years, and even more so through my social media channels, I knew that every communication professional was faced with challenging questions daily. It’s the nature of the business. For me, answering questions became a daily practice. When I stepped back to evaluate, the Q&A started to fall into categories or “buckets.” The biggest buckets included building relationships and media relations best practices, reputation management, branding and social media, content marketing, measurement and yes, there were even questions about mentoring.
Q&A is at the Heart of Mentoring & Reverse Mentoring
These buckets quickly became the chapters in my book. Then, when I looked at the remaining questions that didn’t entirely fall into a specific category, they became the “Essentials” or the what you need to know as a modern communicator, but didn’t know who to ask. Sometimes these questions made you feel uncomfortable. I always encourage students and pros to ask as many questions as possible and share their answers. When you have Q&A and open dialogue, it is a chance for learning on both sides. Reverse mentoring is a way for professionals of all ages and experience to learn from each other.
Learning through the experiences of others is a great way to look at your own situation and take what applies, and then challenge yourself to add to someone else’s answer. In my book, there are questions in the form of challenges, and my answers did not always demonstrate the right steps or actions taken (primarily as an early professional). That’s right … it’s through missteps that you learn and you do not make the same mistake twice.
Having a resource or a book that offers guidance with Q&A is a way to check or validate your own steps, and to also expand on the answers you receive. Answers for Modern Communicators is a discussion starter, or the “What would you do?” and “What have you learned from your experience” As more professionals come together to share, the more we will all learn.
Advancing as the #ForeverStudent
Today, mentoring is in the modern communicators’ DNA for two big reasons. First, you will be faced with ongoing challenges daily and look for your answers from your mentors, whether they are close acquaintances or influencers on social media. At the same time, there will always be younger professionals who need your expertise. In the spirit of learning, and what I call being a #ForeverStudent, keep the questions coming and the answers flowing, so we can learn and advance together!
About the Author: Deirdre Breakenridge is CEO of Pure Performance Communications. She is an author speaker and workshop trainer, host of the podcast Women Worldwide, and a LinkedIn Learning instructor. Her most recent book, Answers for Modern Communicators, A Guide to Effective Business Communication, was published by Routledge in October 2017.