Learning From the Pros … and Their Mistakes

We tend to think of experts in our field as being infallible. We want to learn everything about them like doing so will automatically make us better at our careers. However, what we don’t usually see are all the mistakes these “celebrities” have made during their own paths to success. We generally only see the rewards they’ve reaped in the end.

As you’ve probably been told by many guidance counselors, you can learn from your mistakes. In fact, mistakes provide way more learning possibilities than raging successes. This is why it’s important when studying someone’s career to take in their steps backward as well the big leaps forward.


Becoming a pro certainly doesn’t stop you from making mistakes. You can find examples of otherwise competent PR experts blowing it in one way or the other. BP had a ton of money to spend on PR, and what happened to them during the oil spill? Nothing but PR disaster after disaster.

Rob Ferris isn’t someone who’s never picked up a PR book before. He’s been at it for almost 15 years now. But last year, Rob basically might as well have been a student in training for his first assignment.

The CEO of the company he works for, Honeywell, was giving a speech at a public meeting when a reporter from the New York Times asked him about a uranium spill at one of the company plants. Rather than answer the question or at least dodge it tactfully, the CEO ran out of the room.

This isn’t a metaphor, or some clever wording. The CEO literally ran out of the room after the reporter had the microphone ripped out of his hand. When the reporter tried to chase the CEO, Ferris blocked his path. Yes, the team barricaded the reporter in the room so he couldn’t follow up.

Lapse in Judgment

I sympathize with Ferris, I really do. One second everything is going fine, and the next his CEO is bolting out of the room. The situation wasn’t exactly going as planned … and as faithful readers of the blog know, I adore a plan.

Ferris and the others on the Honeywell team saw the situation slipping away and, in a lapse of judgment, decided to lose their minds to protect their jobs … and their client. Who here hasn’t gone out of their way for a client? Of course I highly doubt any of us locked anyone in a room…

Still, it was all a temporary (albeit huge) lapse in judgment. All it would’ve taken from the CEO was a little “We will address that, but not at this time pending investigation” or something to divert the conversation. Instead, we got…well, what we go. Something out of a TV show!

The point is, no matter how seasoned a pro you believe you are, one day you’ll be faced with a situation like Rob Ferris faced. If you haven’t fully prepared for absolutely anything to go wrong, then you’re going to end up making a snap call like happened here. Learn from PR Pro Ferris’ mistake so you don’t end up falsely imprisoning someone for asking the wrong question!

What’s the biggest PR blunder you’ve ever made?

This article is written by Mickie Kennedy, founder of eReleases (http://www.ereleases.com), the online leader in press release writing and distribution. Download the free whitepaper LinkedIn for Business here: http://www.ereleases.com/insider/linkedin.html

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