10 lessons from Nelson Mandela’s own words for the world of PR and the world at large

By Michelle Heatherly

A great hero of our time, Nelson Mandela, has passed, but his indelible mark on society will live on through his legacy. Nelson Mandela saw the good in mankind and his outlook was unfailingly positive. We can all learn some valuable lessons from reflecting on his life.

Below are a few that public relations professionals can apply to their work, their client relationships, the media, colleagues and in their everyday lives.

Ten lessons from Nelson Mandela’s own words that apply to PR pros (and, well, the world):

  1. Educate. “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” As PR practitioners, we’re informers to the public; it’s our job to create awareness through news and our duty to provide content that is newsworthy.

  1. Think wisely. “A good head and a good heart are always a formidable combination.” As PR professionals, we have an obligation to practice our craft ethically. Let us never forget that duty we must uphold: PRSA Code of Ethics.

  1. Live up to your potential. “There is no passion to be found playing small – in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.” We owe it to our clients, our colleagues and our companies to exhaust every angle and give 100 percent of our effort. Leave nothing on the table.

  1. The best time is now. “We must use time wisely and forever realize that the time is always ripe to do right.” Timeliness is a major element of news – we must never pass up an opportunity that requires a sense of urgency, nor miss a deadline.

  1. Make friends, not enemies. “If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy. Then he becomes your partner.” There is only benefit to developing strong, meaningful relationships with your PR clients and the media ... and adverse consequences for making enemies: It only leads to destruction. Never burn bridges. Ever. Make peace, not war.

  1. Get buy-in from others. “It is wise to persuade people to do things and make them think it was their own idea.” Add value to your relationships by listening and seeing what the other person needs. There is no greater feeling than being able to help a reporter meet a need with a client’s content, but it must make sense for the reporter, for the story and for the outlet.

  1. Achieve the unimaginable. “It always seems impossible until it is done.” Never say never. Aim high and shoot for the stars. How else will you reach them?

  1. Let it go. “The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.” Forget the past; if at first you don’t succeed, try again. You can’t beat yourself up because of rejection – a “no” actually just means “not right now.” Don’t take rejection personally, especially when it’s just business.

  1. Be fearless. “The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.” Don’t be afraid to try again.

  1. Persevere. “After climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb.” Life is full of valleys, but they make you appreciate the peaks that much more. There will be struggles, frustrations and troubles along your road – but overcoming those obstacles is what makes it all worth living. Never give up.

About Michelle Heatherly

Previously the director of client engagement for Axia Public Relations, Michelle Heatherly’s worked to integrate clients into the firm and to ensure they are personally delighted and their expectations are exceeded. Her personal mission is to live a life that matters and to inspire others to do the same.

Topics: Public Relations

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