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4 lessons I learned from HAPPO

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If you’re a regular reader of my blog, chances are you may have heard of Help a PR Pro Out (HAPPO). HAPPO was an event I sparked with my friend Valerie Simon as a way to start building momentum for PR job seekers as more positions open up around the country. It wasn’t really about finding people jobs during the four-hour event on Feb. 19—it was more about relationship-building, networking, mentoring and, like I said, momentum.

From my perspective—and all of the 30-plus champions across the country that donated their valuable time—it was a chance for us to give back. To pay it forward. To help those who need it most. Our friends and colleagues.

But, along the way, we got something out of this, too. That’s the way it works when you give. You get a little back.

However, we also learned a few lessons along the way. Today, I wanted to share some of those key learnings, because I think they’re critical to so many digital and community-based activities and campaigns you see online today:

Learn to let go. What’s the quote again? You don’t own your brand—your customers do. That was obvious from the get-go with HAPPO. So much, in fact, that we asked our community to define the visual identity for our brand for us. Even better—we let the community vote on it.

I had (have) a lot invested in HAPPO. Personally, I’m very involved with giving back and mentoring younger pros across the country. And, I put a lot of time into HAPPO the last two weeks (as did Valerie and all our champions). So, when people started coming up with ideas on what we might do, it would have been easy to say, “no, we have that under control” or “I don’t think that’s such a great idea.” Except, you know what? They were great ideas. And, we needed help. Big time. We would have been stupid to turn down those ideas—and the arms and legs. So happy people like PR Cog, Mike Schaffer and Justin Goldsborough stepped up to the plate with new ideas that helped complete this event. In the end, I learned what I have suspected for years: Control is merely an illusion.

Find your champions to help share your story. The very first thing we did when we started HAPPO was to identify PR bloggers from across the country to help us spread the good word. The idea? To have trusted people in key U.S/Canadian markets to serve as “champions” for questions and referrals. People like Danny Brown, Kellye Crane and Richie Escovedo. These people would be the foundation for the success of HAPPO. And boy, were they ever. Gini Dietrich in Chicago posted a few times about the event—posting 20-some-odd jobs on HAPPO Day (she also posted some of the winners from contests in Chicago today). Mike Schaffer organized a DC “HAPPO hour” that drew 30-some PR pros. Doug Haslam partnered with a local PR firm to host a luncheon on HAPPO Day that brought in 20 folks in the Boston area. The Florida crew (Bonnie Upright, John Sternal and Jamie Floer) created their own “home base” (read: blog) where they posted numerous job opportunities. These people were our eyes and ears on the ground. We kept them updated from the “national” level throughout the two weeks via email and asked for their ideas.

Make sure the community has all the facts. This may have been one of the areas where we fell down a bit. And, as one of the organizers of this event, I take full responsibility. On HAPPO Day, there were many reports of people thinking HAPPO would deliver them a job on Feb. 19. Not the case. It never really was the case. HAPPO was much more about fostering connections, making introductions and building momentum–all things we hope will lead to new roles for job seekers. We could have been better prepared. We could have provided champions with key talking points the day before to anticipate this challenge. We could have tried to hammer that message home more effectively in our blog posts leading up to the event. Like I said, this may have been an area where we struggled—just a bit. But, the lessons was simple: Make sure your fans/customers have accurate information. Make sure they’re informed. And make sure you manage their expectations.

Inspiration and passion can go a long ways. I probably spent upwards of 20 hours over the two-week period leading up to HAPPO. Mostly free time I would have otherwise spent with my lovely wife, or blogging. That’s valuable time to me. Really valuable. But, I had no problem giving it up for a cause I believe so strongly in. I have a feeling if you ask the other 30-plus champions across the country why they donated their valuable time, they’d say the same thing. If you can connect with your customer’s passions, you can harness a very powerful force. That’s exactly what we did (and what I hope we can continue to do). For business, there’s a lesson here. Find out what your customers are passionate about. Might not be your product or service, but it’s most likely a topic or concept that relates to your product or service. Tap into that and you’ll find virtually limitless energy. And all sorts of opportunity for your brand.

If you participated in HAPPO, what did you learn?

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4 lessons I learned from HAPPO

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