You may think this is going to be a shameless and transparent attempt to fit as many puppy pictures into a blog as is possible. And you’d be right. But as I watched 20 kilograms of fluff tear round my garden at 6am, I came to the serene realisation that there were plenty of lessons here for life and PR.
At the very heart of everything we do is the ability to communicate effectively to our audience. Whether clients, journalists or end users, we specialise in getting the message across in a way that can be easily and compellingly understood. So it was quite the shock, a decade into my career, to find an audience quite so difficult to reach.
‘He just won’t listen to me’, I gasped in frustration at my wife, who, bleary-eyed, took up pursuit of the monster now threatening the lilac tree. Puppies notoriously don’t listen very well and are driven by very different motivations to our usual audiences.
As a result, life with a puppy is a constant evaluation of how we communicate. New and creative ways to make yourself understood are essential, both verbally and non-verbally, as puppies listen to body language and tone more than they do words. Our lives, then, are a constant holiday in a language we don’t speak. Except without the holiday.
Perhaps I’ve started this off a little bleak. It should go without saying that puppies are adorable (caveat) and can really brighten up your day (caveat, caveat). But in the beginning, they are just a scared baby with absolutely no idea what’s going on or who you are.
Gaining the trust of a puppy is not easy (see where I’m going here), but when you’re able to prove that you know what you’re doing and that you’re on their side, you will start to see the beginning of a fruitful partnership. Relationships are always two-way and require constant work, but the rewards are always worth the perseverance.
I recently found out that nothing makes you move faster than the sound of a puppy retching in the direction of a rug. Whether it’s a bout of ‘zoomies’ round the garden, or ‘zoomies’ round the house, puppy life comes at you fast and teaches a disciplined flexibility.
Client changed their mind last minute? No problem. This morning you were dealing with a puppy that’s decided to ‘unlearn’ its toilet training. If life in PR is about being flexible and reacting to situations and requests out of the blue, then puppies might as well start charging for their training services.
It’s something we say to clients on a regular basis, and in pretty much every new business conversation: results won’t happen overnight. PR is not a field of instant gratification and it should come as no surprise at this point that neither are puppies.
It is helpful in both strands of life to take a step back sometimes and evaluate progress over a longer term. There will inevitably be tougher times, but it’s important to remember that if we keep adapting and learning, and build relationships on the strength and clarity of our communication, the results will come.