Don’t be a Brutus Backstabber

If you are engaging a speaker for your students, your event or your business,  applying good public relations practices critical for your reputation. I’ve recently been on a public speaking circuit and/or had occasion to help others with their engagements. Thought I’d share some observations.

One of my closest friends teaches high school English. To engage her students in the story of Julius Caesar and Brutus, students were assigned a media relations challenge: conduct a media publicity campaign for either Caesar or Brutus and defend the case. Kids did great jobs: citizen on the street reaction to the death of Caesar, radio scoops interviewing “Brutus” and TV reality shows. For those who have forgotten their high school history, Brutus and Caesar were pals until Caesar started making like a king. Brutus thought a republic with fair representation a better way to go. Seeing his friend’s grandiose ideas, Brutus felt his only option was to take Caesar out-stabbed him in the back. About 3/4ths of the students supported Brutus and the push for democracy, even though killing was extreme. We talked about the challenge in public relations about taking on a client who goes against the administration and when that is appropriate, overcoming oppressive regimes.

My friend invited two of us working in the field of public relations to come “judge” the media efforts. We committed nearly three hours of our time to observe 4-50 students present their cases and provided feedback on the elements of persuasion and public relations they showcased. Gladly arranged my schedule to accommodate this educational endeavor.

But the high school administration became Brutus. My entire experience was ruined when I went to my car. You see I couldn’t find any parking upon arriving. I got to the school at the appointed time but couldn’t find parking and still had to negotiate signing in at the front office. The 6-8 visitor parking spots were all occupied, the street parking was full, so I parked in a spot clearly marked faculty. There were several open faculty spots, not like I was preventing faculty from parking closely. When I returned to my car an astrobright gold piece of paper was on my windshield. The note read

You have parked in a faculty designated parking spot. In future, park in the designated visitor parking. -High School Administration.

Clearly the administration knew I was a visitor and not a student. What an abysmal way to treat a visitor. I had to sign in and state my purpose as a guest. They knew why I was there–to share my expertise with their students. And yet, they left a nasty gram on my windshield. No one asked me where I parked when I checked in. But they sure wanted me to know where to park if I ever came back.

If the high school teacher who invited me wasn’t my best friend, I wouldn’t ever go back. I’ve painted a mural on the wall over a hot summer weekend for the class. This is the third year I’ve volunteered time to provide professional insight to student class work. And one moment could easily have ruined our relationship (mine with the school, not my friend). I told my friend about my disappointment, so this isn’t a surprise. But she wasn’t surprised either. The school administration’s heavy handed approach created a great analogy for the class assignment, fulfilling both Caesar and Brutus parts.

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