One of My Worst PR Nightmares

Years ago I worked at a camp for kids with chronic illnesses and was in charge of marketing and public relations. In my time there I helped the camp get a ton of press, but this story has to do with a specific three-month period.

During these three months I spent a considerable amount of energy trying to get NBC Nightly News to the camp. If pulled off, the hit would be one of the largest the camp had ever had, and it would help drive a considerable amount of donations and increase awareness.

The pitch eventually stuck, and before you know it, NBC Nightly News was coming to town. But this is when things went sideways.

Screen Shot 2014-02-06 at 8.51.15 AMPart of the story included a sports talent angle, and the morning the NBC producers arrived, the talent’s schedule had a last-minute change that couldn’t be avoided. As in, the talent was not able to come to town for the shoot.

I remember it like it was yesterday. The producers arrived. I drove them around the grounds showing them this and that, and when the tour came to an end I broke the news to them about the last-minute schedule change.

Cell phones popped out. Conversations started. And I felt like a rock hit me when I heard one of the producers say, “Tell Brian the shoot is off.” I was that close to having Brian Williams at the camp, and the opportunity crumbled right in front of me.

After various calls were made, I drove the producers back to their car, went back in the camp’s main office and walked into my boss’ office. I sat down and he said, “Where’s NBC?” I replied, “They left.” For a moment, we simply looked at each other, both likely thinking about how bad the situation stunk.

My boss knew there was nothing I could do to save the situation, but it was a massive let-down nonetheless.

The silver lining in this public relations nightmare is that I had formed a great relationship with the producer overseeing the segment, and she understood that these unfortunate last-minute changes happen. Luckily, and I can’t emphasize that enough, we were able to reschedule the shoot, and Lester Holt was able to come back to the camp and do the story a month or so later.

I often wonder how this story would have ended had such a strong relationship not been created with the producer, but, as you and I both know, things likely would have turned out much different.

Relationships. They are at the heart of what we do. (Click to tweet)

About Ryan Shell

Ryan is Senior Manager, Online Communications, for Ketchum. He's an avid cyclist and blogger, and is proud of his Southern roots. Feel free to check out his personal website, or connect with him on Twitter - @RyanShell.