At first he was terrified, then merely anxious, and now he’s done enough interviews that he’s getting a little lackadaisical about the whole thing. His visits to local studios have become so routine that he’s taken to calling the stations he’s been on by the call letters WNEL (W No one Ever Listens).
Yesterday he sent me this email about all the good PR he’s getting: “I will be on-air again tomorrow but no one cares. Think about the result of throwing a pebble in a raging river. Think about WNEL with even fewer listeners. Think about the proverbial tree falling in the empty forest and the effect it has on the planet Earth. I could go on but I would only depress myself further. Why do I bother to do this anymore?”
Isn’t it funny how quickly my friend’s viewpoint changed? When he first got on air he was almost shaking with excitement and nervousness and now his once-coveted appearances have become a dreaded drudgery and odious obligation.
Of course I have a little of experience here and can empathize a bit. Sometimes supposedly good PR appearances can feel like you’re just screaming into a chasm. Sometimes the echo of your own voice is the only thing you hear through your little headphones at the exact moment when you’re hungry to hear the cheering accolades of millions of adoring fans.
But if my friend’s goal is to promote his books and his business on air then maybe it makes a little sense for him to pay some dues when no one else is watching or listening. After all, you wouldn’t want the first time you get on television to be that coveted interview with Oprah Winfrey or Jimmy Fallon would you?
Sometimes being in the wrong place at the wrong time allows you to get all the kinks worked out so you’ll be ready for the good PR when you get to be in the right place at the right time. Sometimes that little extra bit of practice, screaming into the chasm as it were, shows you what to do — and more importantly NOT do — when your big break finally comes along.
Although those big breaks do seem to happen to others with alarming ease and frequency – think Justin Bieber being discovered on Youtube, or Ava Garnber being discovered when her photo was spotted at a portrait studio – they are certainly anomalies. Most people who make it big become overnight successes only after 20 years of hard work and nose to the grindstone stick-to-it-ness.
Which is exactly what my friend is doing with his day in and day out appearances on WNEL, honing his skills while he gets the experience he needs to be ready for his big shot at good PR whenever it happens to appear. His on-air goal should not to reach a lot of people yet but to be prepared to paraphrase Norma in Sunset Boulevard and vamp, “All right, Mr. DeMille, I’m ready for my close-up” when his big opportunity finally shows its beautiful face.
My father used to remind me “when opportunity knocks you can’t say ‘come back later.’” Instead you have to use the downtime before your big chance, the calm before the storm, to make sure you’re as ready for your opportunity as you can be. Because sometimes opportunity knocks early, sometimes it knocks later, and maybe sometimes it doesn’t knock no matter how hard you prepare for it. But to have opportunity come knocking when you’re not yet ready to answer the door would be the most frustrating of all.
How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice, practice, practice. How do you take advantage of your good PR? The same way. Practice, practice, practice until you can take full advantage of the opportunity. Because as congressional librarian Daniel J. Boorstin said about potential and achievement, “Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some hire public relations officers.”