“It doesn’t take a hero to order men into battle. It takes a hero to be one of those men who goes into battle.”
— Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf
That’s the thing — a hero is without bias, without color, without subjection. A hero is someone who is willing to sacrifice what means the most to them for the salvation of what means the most to others.
This is the banner under which all soldiers in the U.S. military fight and forge ahead. Today is their day. It’s Veterans Day. This is not reserved for politicians to wax nationalistic for brownie points in their district. This is not for celebrities to wave a flag and gain shares on social media.
This is their day, and there are things we can all learn from them. And since this is the PRNewserverse, what can public relations professionals learn?
Here are 5 PR lessons to learn from Veterans Day:
1. Dare to do something different.
Key word there: Dare. Many of us in PR travel every once in a while. And during the times traipsing down the terminal, you may see a camouflage backpack or a couple of folks in fatigues or possibly a young man with a cap marked ‘Veteran.’
Ever approached one of them to thank them for their service? Ever taken more than an obligatory moment to ask what that service was? Don’t feel bad, it’s a little uncomfortable. However, I double dog dare you to walk out of that comfort zone and do so.
PR can be the same way — plenty of comfort zones and even more opportunities to step out of one. Has someone ever dared you to get a little uncomfortable and do something different? Much like a handshake to a deserving veteran, that action could make you smile and warm someone else’s heart. I dare ya.
2. PR can be “the best of times, the worst of times.”
Charles Dickens wrote the notable introduction in A Tale of Two Cities. And while he was writing about the spring of hope and the winter of despair, we are reminded that every person is presented with good experiences and bad memories. Although the thought of protecting our country is riddled with scenes from the movies that can keep one up at night, some veterans have served our country during times of peace.
During times of conflict and times of resolve, veterans have done their job despite how things are going. Not that PR pros can even relate the tumultuous moments some veterans have seen, but our jobs provide times of conflict as well. And despite what your clients demand, your boss expects, or that one brown noser jots down during a meeting, you have a job to do — and you should do it with pride.
3. Forget the Client. Focus on the Cause.
Many people in PR experience burnout for one reason or another. Sometimes, it’s client conflict. Or, it’s angst with that one colleague with a more notable title who makes you feel like crap. Whatever the happenstance, people can often get in the way of your passion in this industry. And if you don’t find something to deter your frustration, you could miss out on the real need for your services — the cause.
Being in the military, the men and women who defend this country understand better than most there are countless political hacks in the way to provide that defense. They realize that regardless of personal feelings, a professional calling supersedes that. The current soldiers and veterans of past conflicts may not respect the current president but they will obey the Commander-in-Chief without reservation because they understand why that man is giving a command — the cause.
4. Don’t get it twisted.
From a knowledgeable politician to a random person on the street, many people tend to get the meaning of Veterans Day confused with another holiday simply because soldiers are involved. Memorial Day is not a day that requires a gleeful salutation, like “Happy Memorial Day.” There’s no such thing. This is a day to pay tribute to those who have lost their lives in combat. Veterans are people — alive or dead, serving or retired — who deserve honor because of the sacrifice they all chose to offer in defense of this country.
PR pros are often stereotyped and generalized, much to our detriment. We are often painted with the same brush as Spin Doctors or publicists, again, to our dismay. What we do requires a set of skills that would make Liam Neeson proud; however, those skills are often grouped as one skill — shilling. Wrong! We share stories. We offer points-of-view. We create conversation. We position noteworthy people. We help others discover our clients.
Uniforms may differ. Locations do differ. However, the job is what sets them — and us to a much lesser degree — apart.
5. This is for whosoever will.
According to the U.S. Census, some of the numbers on today’s veteran could surprise you. If you think they skew closer to one age over another, 9.4 million are over the age of 65 and 1.9 million are under the age of 35. If you believe you only see one gender, 1.6 million veterans are women. One creed? 21.1 percent are white. 11.4 percent are black, 6.1 percent are Hispanic, and 1.5 percent are Asian.
In public relations, check any cube farm. Women and men, white and black, young and well… not so young. And that’s the beauty of PR, as well as the military, it is indicative of the field we represent. Our clients come from all walks of life and bring with them different vantage points and ideas for how PR should position them. Some of our clients are notable leaders. Others are the spry start-up looking to become an agent of change. You know, like veterans — all notable, all leaders, all agents of change.
Thank them all today. It’s because of them, we are able to do PR in the first place.