I usually leave professional conferences with information that helps me do my job better. Student conferences, alternately, are filled with good advice about a profession–and life.
Some advice heard at the Public Relations Student Society of America’s (PRSSA) National Conference in Atlanta came from Coca-Cola Vice President Scott Williamson, who delivered a keynote address to 1,250 students from around the country. His list, “Six Lessons Learned,” was developed from his 24 years’ experience as a public relations representative for Coke. He shared what life as a PR practitioner has taught him, and he discussion is relevant to just about everyone:
- Ignore the data (but not completely). “Don’t ignore the voice in your head and the feeling in your gut when making decisions,” Williamson told the students.
- Be simple, be clear, be awesome. Williamson challenged the students to read Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg address as the example of profound expression written in simple terms. “Everything you say or don’t say, and everything you do or don’t do, is communication.”
- Shine your own shoes and iron your own shirt. Williamson said he was hired at Coke because he told his future boss that this is what he did. “No job is too small to give it your best effort, because you never know who’s watching,” he said.
- Belief matters. “If you work for a brand, incorporate that brand in your life,” he suggested. Williamson said he won’t even visit a restaurant that carries Pepsi products. “Why should I support my competitors?”
- Question the impossible. “In human history, running a mile in under four minutes was considered impossible until Roger Bannister did it in 1952,” he noted, “after which, the human running speed record was broken eight times in 27 months. Ask yourself why.”
- Hold out for both marshmallows. Referencing the famous psychological study in which children were given the choice of eating a marshmallow or waiting 15 minutes to get two, Williamson suggested students should “hold out for a better outcome. If you learn to wait for the things you want, you’ll reap the rewards.”
What advice from this veteran PR guy resonates with you? Your thoughts?