Four Reasons Publicist is a Dirty Word

 

By Julie Wright —President
Twitter: @juliewright


Has your mom ever used your childhood nickname in front of your adult friends? That’s how I feel when someone uses the term publicist or publicity to describe my work.

Generating positive media coverage is definitely among the many functions performed by a public relations professional. But the word “publicist” says nothing of the research, strategy, messaging and many other thoughtful, and even artful, activities that go into a successful public relations program. The word, in my opinion, minimizes my work.

For that reason, I would like to see “publicist” buried next to “flack” and “spin doctor.”

Public relations professionals are strategic communicators.

Two years ago, PRSA’s 2017 Chair, Jane Dvorak, addressed the PRSA Western District Conference in Riverside, Calif. urging attendees to see themselves as leaders, strategists and analysts. To my ear, “publicist” is a label that says none of those things. Two years later, I continue to hear this term applied to describe work that is only about 10-20 percent producing media coverage.

If you’re not convinced that “publicist” needs to go, give these four points careful consideration, and let me know if they help change your thinking. (If you already agree, these may help you convert or at least educate others.)

1. Publicists Produce Transactions. PR Pros Build Relationships.

We work in a very transactional environment today. Marketing and communications outcomes are boiled down to clicks, likes, links and conversions, but the stakeholders who need to receive your messages are not clicks and conversions—they’re real human beings who crave meaningful emotional connections with other real human beings.

This absolutely includes journalists.

Media databases like Cision and Meltwater make it much easier to build a big list than a targeted one. Journalists become email addresses and not people. Instead of building a relationship with the media, this transactional approach plays a numbers game. Ultimately, when the media gripes about getting a PR pitch addressed to the wrong name or that’s a country mile off the mark, it’s because they’re not being communicated to as human beings.

Public relations requires building understanding, changing perceptions and motivating behaviors and beliefs. Those kinds of outcomes need a relational versus transactional approach, which requires understanding your audiences and treating them as humans. This can be accomplished through surveys, interviews and focus groups and using that information to create personas.

Publicity is just too limiting a term to encompass these approaches.

2. Publicity is a Tactic. Public Relations Requires Strategy.

As public relations professionals, we can’t fulfill our role and responsibilities with a tactical mindset. We must think strategically.

From research to message development and testing to creative—strategy drives the choices we make, and those choices drive our campaign results. Did we communicate in a manner that earned our audience’s attention and resonated with them so that their perceptions, beliefs and behaviors were impacted?

I equate publicity with none of the above. Instead, I picture someone producing a bunch of press clippings which is useful if stroking your client’s ego is the only goal of your campaign.

3. A Publicist’s Communication is One-Way. PR Requires Listening.

There is far more pitching, posting and publishing than listening on social media and the web these days. I like the term coined by Mark Schaefer five years ago, Content Shock, to sum up the impact of content marketing run rampant. Schaefer pointed out then how the pace and volume of content being produced far exceeded the pace and volume of content being consumed.

Anyone today who is pushing content or a message without creating a way for the recipient to engage, respond and be heard is missing a huge opportunity to build relationships.

Communicators who create space for their stakeholders to be heard are the ones doing it right. When a crisis hits, they’ll be able to engage in conversations with their customers or investors rather than an avalanche of angry or outraged Tweets and Facebook posts.

The brands that weather crises more easily than others are those that have built relationships and goodwill with their stakeholders. And those are the brands being stewarded by strategic communicators and not publicists.

4. Publicity is About Earned Media. Public Relations Crosses All Media.

A decade ago, traditional media outlets underwent an implosion, while podcasts, online videos, blogs and social media storytelling platforms exploded. In the aftermath of these two trends, traditional media gatekeepers like the daily newspaper or evening newscast have lost their ability to influence public perception at scale.

Earned media was once the bread and butter of the public relations function, but today, it is just one of several communication platforms our profession employs to reach and engage with its stakeholders.

The contemporary integrated approach, sometimes referred to as the PESO Model, combines paid, earned, shared and owned media. Paid media can include social media ads and boosting or Google AdWords. Earned media includes press coverage but can include analyst relations, awards and speaking opportunities that imply and/or impart third-party validation. Shared media refers to social networks like Facebook but also review sites like TripAdvisor and Yelp. Owned media describes all of the creative assets at your disposal to engage your audiences and to interact with them directly including print, digital and multimedia content.

Publicity is a component of only one of those four platforms, making it an inadequate label for describing what today’s strategic communicators do.

So, Let’s Retire the Term Publicist and Champion the Role of Strategic Communicator.

It’s time to toss this transactional, tactical, and out-of-touch term. It’s old school and perpetuates a narrow stereotype of what public relations today actually is. Publicity is about as apropos to what my team and I do every day at (W)right On Communications as my childhood nickname is to my adult identity. Now, if only I could get my mom to stop calling me Oobies.

Ask Me Anything – Public Speaking Tips

The fear of public speaking is real and it’s common. It’s estimated that as much as 75% of the U.S. population (243 million people) fear public speaking. Luckily, with some guidance, coaching and a few public speaking tips; anyone can overcome their fear.

Having led media training and presentation workshops for client partners at (W)right On Communications, I was recently invited to host an AMA on public speaking.

For those unfamiliar, AMA stands for “ask me anything” and is a common online forum format where thought leaders are asked questions about the subject matter they’re expert in. AMAs have become widely popular and have even been used by celebrities to interact and engage with wide audiences. Bill Gates has participated in an AMA to raise awareness about the causes his Foundation champions. Barack Obama was the first sitting president to hold an AMA and he answered questions on everything ranging from economic policy and net neutrality, to money in American politics and the White House’s homebrew recipe. Val Kilmer revealed he had throat cancer during an AMA. Long story short, AMAs are a great venue to get authentic answers to interesting questions.

For the AMA about public speaking tips, I expected a lot of questions about the best way to prepare for speaking in public or techniques for practicing. I was surprised by how many participants asked for tips to overcome their fear. I gave the same answer repeatedly – practice and preparation.

I also received a lot of questions asking for very specific direction or guidance for their individual circumstance. The truth is that every person and every scenario is different. If you’re preparing to speak in front of an audience you’re familiar with about a topic you’re obsessed with, you probably need less preparation to come across as knowledgeable and enthusiastic. If you’re presenting in front of a group of people you’ve never met about a subject you’re less of an expert in, then more preparation would be needed.

Here are some select questions that participants submitted and my responses. Have a different question you want answered? Send it over to us via Twitter, Instagram or Facebook. –Chance

What advice would you give to someone who experiences performance anxiety?

Prepare and practice! The best way to combat performance anxiety is confidence. If you’re confident about your materials and how you’ll deliver them, you’re less likely to be anxious. The amount of preparation should mirror how anxious an individual is/gets. In addition to feeling prepared to deliver the material, the exercise of preparing also forces the individual to confront the anxiety multiple times in advance of the actual scenario. They’ll visualize the scenario, feel the anxiety and be forced to work through it beforethey’re in the moment when it matters.

What tips can you share on what to do if one is giving a speech and suddenly goes blank?

One tip is to ask a question of the audience, if it’s a natural place for it. Hopefully, if the audience has been following along, their question will guide you back on the direction you were originally going.

Another tip is to revisit the points you’ve already made. While this buys time it also provides an opportunity for the speaker to catch back up with their train of thought. While being repetitive isn’t necessarily ideal for a speaker, it can help hammer home key points and give the individual an opportunity to recover.

Option C is to carry a few note cards with 3-4 words to remind you of the key points you want to make.

How can visualization help someone overcome stage fright?

Humans are naturally scared of the unknown. Think about blind dates or visiting a new place. There’s a certain level of anxiety with both. Visualization helps an individual feel more comfortable by anticipating a positive outcome. Visualization also helps the individual to confront nervousness or anxiety in advance of the actual scenario. Once you’ve gotten through that feeling, the nervousness during your speech is likely to be manageable. It’s also like a roller coaster. You might be nervous before your first time riding one, but the second, third, fourth, etc. time are a lot less nerve racking.

Of course, visualization can be a double-edged sword in that if the actual experience doesn’t mirror what the individual visualized, that could create more anxiety. I recommend visualizing but also thinking through alternate scenarios and prepare for how you’d react to the unexpected—like a A/V failure, microphone feedback or empty seats. Don’t be too rigid to where you’re completely thrown off if the reality doesn’t match the expectation. Visiting the venue in advance, arriving early and doing a soundcheck can all also help prevent the unexpected and reduce nerves.

How do you help people overcome their fears and issues about public speaking? What is your method?

It’s a process. Generally, we follow these steps.

  1. Openly discuss past public speaking situations, their experiences and the nerves or anxiety they faced.
  2. Have the individual do a mock speech or presentation with just one or two individuals and a camera.
  3. Conduct a public speaking workshop on the theory behind effective public speaking, tactics and methodologies, common mistakes, and provide some case examples.
  4. Review the video from the individual’s recorded mock speech and go over the issues or errors and talk through what caused them, review potential tactics to avoid them in the future and reference back to the theory and methodology that had been discussed in the workshop.
  5. Strategize on the individual’s preparation going forward with a focus on addressing whatever issues that individual is most prone to.
  6. Let the individual go away (for a few days or weeks, depending on timing) to digest the information provided and implement the preparation plan. Here they’ll practice their upcoming speech.
  7. Having digested and prepared, have the individual come back and go through the mock speech exercise again. Usually, here we will point out all the improvements they’ve made to bolster confidence and do some slight tweaking to help with any areas still needing improvement.
  8. Send them on their way to finalize preparation and watch them crush their next speech!

What are the cognitive reasons related to the fear of speaking in public?

Whoa, we can get deep here, but a lot of it would be speculating as everyone is so different.

Broadly, fear of public speaking is due to their person’s current mental condition and past experiences. An individual’s perception is a manifestation of their background and experiences. Many individuals who fear public speaking have had a bad public speaking experience, or, at least, they haven’t had a good public speaking experience. I’ve seen people who had a paralyzing fear of public speaking almost completely shake it once they’ve gone through the preparation process and then nailed their actual presentation. In many ways, it boils down to not believing in themselves in the first place. Once they’ve shown they can do it, they have the confidence and the tools to be more successful going forward and it relieves a lot of the fear.

Do you offer consultations only to CEO’s and entrepreneurs? Where can people contact you?

We do! In fact, it’s a core competency at my agency, (W)right On Communications, Inc. Whether helping CEOs be more effective internal communicators and leaders or helping arm entrepreneurs with the chops to land the funding they’re needing, our program prepares and empowers participants to use speech in a more impactful way. Check out our website wrightoncomm.com and you can shoot me an email at cshay@wrightoncomm.com.

What type of notes should one carry to help during a public speaking engagement?

Ideally, none. The hope would be that a speaker knows their material so well and is so familiar with the content that the speech flows naturally. (This is an important point – that a speech shouldn’t be so rigid that if you don’t say the exact words in the exact cadence you’re thrown off).

The reality is this isn’t that common unless you’re a professional presenter or have had almost endless experiences with public speaking. In this case, if you’re presenting, the slides can be used as your notes. Slides shouldn’t be full of text (and are even better with next to no text), but they can serve as prompts for individual messages you want to convey or stories to share.

If it’s a traditional in-front-of-podium-style speech, then carry a couple note cards with a few words to remind you of the key points they want to make.

How do you manage your fear when facing a public presentation?

This is always the most common question our trainees ask, and the answer is preparation and practice. If you’ve prepared and practiced, you’re naturally less fearful because you’re more confident in your ability to perform. A professional basketball player – who has spent countless hours preparing and practicing – is completely comfortable playing a high stakes game in front of 40,000 people but would be more nervous presenting to a board.

To prepare: decide the points you want to make and what you want your audience knowing/thinking when they leave the speech, develop a storyline to get you to that result, work on that storyline until it suits your communication style, and then practice. Practice aloud to yourself, aloud in front of a mirror, in front of your best friend or significant other, in front of colleagues who are more experienced public speakers, etc.

Having gone through all of that, you’ll be less fearful.

When it’s show time, manage the anxiety by taking deep breaths and speaking slowly.

How often do you recommend practicing before one attempts to give a presentation?

It depends on how comfortable with the material an individual is. If it’s a presentation that a person has given in one form or another a few times before, then 3-5 practice run throughs might be enough.

If it’s a new presentation, the individual is less experienced in public speaking, or the person has a greater fear of public presentations, then that number can go up drastically. For me, I will practice a presentation or speech a few times a day for a week leading up to delivering it. I like to practice in different scenarios – in a familiar place and an unfamiliar place, in a smaller space and in a bigger space, on the treadmill, while walking the dog, etc. One rule is that last-minute practicing can be a recipe for disaster. By putting off practicing until it’s almost go time, an individual doesn’t give themselves enough time to change parts of the presentation that aren’t working, tweak voice inflection and areas for dramatic pauses, or any other changes and stillhave time to practice the re-worked presentation. By beginning your presentation practice early, you have time to decide how much practice is needed.

I’ll also stress that practicing by itself isn’t necessarily effective. If you practice a terrible presentation, the outcome will still be bad. Thorough preparation, including developing your story arc, memorizing your key points, working to cut down fluff and be more concise, etc., is just as important as practicing.

Has picturing people in their underwear or naked ever worked for you?

I can’t think of many things that would be more distracting than visualizing a group of strangers in front of me naked. Mingling and socializing with audience members before a presentation works a lot better for me. It makes me feel like I know them and I’m just talking to some friends.

Have you ever known someone with a severe case of performance anxiety? Is it possible to give a presentation if you have a similar case?

Absolutely. In fact, most of the individuals we work with fall somewhere on the spectrum of performance anxiety. Not only is it possible for these people to give a successful presentation, it’s almost guaranteed if they follow the right strategies for preparing and practicing. Check out some of the other Q&As here for specific tips and processes.

What advice could you offer to a person that paralyzes when talking to a TV camera?

Focus on the person you’re talking to and not the camera. For some, the physical object that is the camera is what throws them off/makes them uncomfortable and for others it’s the idea that there are thousands/millions of people watching through the camera.

By treating the interview like a conversation and focusing on the person you’re talking to, the intimidation of the camera is reduced.

Also, it’s helpful to remember that it’s not just you carrying the burden of the discussion being recorded by the camera. If you’re being interviewed, focus on the key messages and talking points you’ve prepared with, then let the interviewer help carry the load in terms of driving the conversation forward.

What are some of the methods one can use to get over nervousness when giving a speech?

Nervousness is the product of being unsure and lacking confidence about one’s ability to enact the outcome they want. If I was in a situation where I would either double my salary or lose it completely by hitting a target with a bow and arrow, I would be very nervous because I’ve never shot a bow and arrow. But if I was an experienced archer, I’d wouldn’t be very nervous at all, right?

The method to get over nervousness is to prepare and practice! Preparation and practice will make you more confident that you’re going to get the outcome you want – or, sometimes more importantly, avoid the outcomes you least want. Preparation and practice not only improves confidence, but also forces the individual to confront the nervousness in advance of the actual scenario. By experiencing that nervousness over and over again, the situation becomes less daunting and you’re less nervous.

You can check out other Q&As for a more specific process we typically follow for public speaking training.

Sometimes people use medication to calm themselves. Is this advisable? What are your reasons for saying so?

What I typically advise is to not introduce new medication specifically for the purpose of helping for a given speech or presentation. If your doctor has prescribed a certain medication and you’ve been using it for a while, then it’s less of a variable because you’re familiar with it and are used to it.

The sticky situation comes when something happens – say a surgery or unexpected injury – and the person is prescribed medication near the time of a speech. The medication is intended to treat something specific, but it can affect them in other ways they didn’t expect.

So, the rule of thumb is don’t take new medication because you think it will help calm your public speaking nerves.

Are there any relaxation or meditation exercises that you find helpful before doing a public presentation?

Generally, I’m a big believer in meditation as a great exercise for the mind. With that said, no amount of meditation can make you deliver an impactful presentation if you haven’t prepared and practiced.

You definitely want to be in a good frame of mind going into a public presentation, so don’t be rushed, try not to get in an argument or be involved in a road rage incident on your way to the venue, get sleep and eat nourishing food. Being rested and prepared are probably the most important factors in being able to perform during go time.

What if someone interrupts you when doing a speech and your audience loses attention? What can you say to make them focus on you if you are terribly shy?

Call them out! If an audience person tries to hijack your presentation, you can’t pretend like you didn’t notice or ignore it. Acknowledge their statement, remind the audience why you’re the expert on the topic they’ve come to listen to and offer to speak after the presentation with the audience member. This will nip it in the bud and discourage others from interrupting you going forward.

Some examples:

Interrupter – “I disagree with what you’re saying. In my experience,….”

Your response – “That’s an interesting observation. In my XX years of experience, I haven’t heard or seen what you describe. Let’s explore that after the presentation. Now, the point I was making is…”

Would you recommend having an alcoholic drink to calm one’s nerves before a presentation? Why or why not?

I’d never advise this to someone. Taking some sort of depressant or stimulant – whether alcohol, pharmaceuticals or otherwise – is a crutch. The best way to create confidence and ensure you’re effective is by methodically preparing and practicing. If you’ve prepared and are well practiced, you’ll be less nervous, but perhaps more excited.

Not to mention, a drink might have unintended consequences that could have a far greater negative effect than the good it does with calming nerves. It might work when approaching someone during a social event where alcohol is being served. But in a professional setting, you don’t want to be buzzed when your audience is sober – especially if they paid to see you!

What types of rituals do you have to do before a presentation? What is the logic behind these rituals?

I start by defining the goals of the presentation – what is the one thing (if it’s a short presentation) or three things (if it’s a longer presentation) I want my audience walking away with. From there, I start to outline content to form a story arc. Once I have that frame, I begin to massage and rework the story to be more effective and concise. Once I have the story developed, I’ll begin working on the physical presentation and visuals. I want the visuals to align with the mood of the presentation and the vibe of the venue/audience.

I’m much more ritualistic with my practice routine. First, I practice by physically reading my script. Saying the words out loud helps me identify what feels uncomfortable and awkward, so that I can rework it. After this, I will go through the presentation with an audience of colleagues who are experienced public speakers for feedback and input. From there, I revise the story and practice the presentation in the bathroom or in front of a mirror, so I can focus on getting my expressions and vocal inflections down. After all of this, I move to an empty conference room or something more spacious – typically speeches are given in bigger, more open venues so this will more closely resemble the actual experience. During this time, I’ll also try to do a walkthrough of the venue if I’m not already familiar with it.

This is maybe two weeks out from the presentation. For the week leading up to the presentation I’ll visualize the presentation and practice delivering the story out loud a few times throughout the day – while walking the dog, driving to the office, on the treadmill.

On the day of, I have my normal amount of caffeine, listen to upbeat music that puts me in a good mood on the drive to the venue, and arrive well in advance of the actual event so that I can get comfortable in the space.

Sometimes when giving a presentation people sweat and use their hands excessively. What should be done to control over gesturing and not perspiring as much?

Gesturing is common and not necessarily bad. Depending on the topic, venue and audience, gesturing is important to keep attention and generate engagement with the audience. For a person that tends to have more distracting gestures, it’s helpful for them to record themselves on video and review the recording with a colleague to identify what’s working and what’s taking away from their message. From there, the individual can do things like no-gesture practicing (trying to remain still while delivering their presentation) to change their behaviors. By over-compensating on the correction, the final result will be something right in the sweet spot, typically.

The sweating thing is a lot different, simply because a lot of it has to do with a person’s genetics. One tip is to wear light clothing to limit the warmth of the body. Trying to keep the body at as low a temperature as possible is helpful. Having water handy and choosing clothing that doesn’t show perspiration are other tips.

How does stage fright manifest itself? Is this a shyness-related problem?

In my experience, introverts and extroverts are just as susceptible to stage fright. The fear is more closely connected to the fear of failure than the fear of interacting with people. If you told a person with stage fright that there was a 100% likelihood she will be successful on stage, she wouldn’t be afraid.

The best way to overcome this is creating confidence that you’ll be successful in the speech/presentation/interview. Success comes from practice and preparation, which we discuss in-depth in other Q&As in this thread. Check them out!

An Introduction to Design Thinking

“Design thinking is a process for creative problem solving.

– Coe Leta Stafford, Managing Director IDEO U

This presentation on Design Thinking was originally developed for an internal agency workshop by Graphic Designer, KeAsha Rogers. It spawned such great discussion among our team at (W)right On that we thought we’d share it on our blog as a resource for our clients and friends. Design Thinking is defined as a method for the practical, creative resolution of problems using the strategies designers use during the process of designing – but it is an approach that can be applied to just about any business challenge.

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If your organization or team would like to learn more about applying the Design Thinking methodology to your business challenges, let us know at info@wrightoncomm.com. We can host a session at our office or bring a brown bag lunch presentation to your location. If you’ve had experience with Design Thinking in your workplace, we’d love to hear about it in the comments below.

5 Reasons You Shouldn’t Be Hiring a PR Firm

Hiring a PR Firm

Take it from the team at (W)right On Communications, people often think about hiring a PR firm for the wrong reasons. But how can you gauge whether you’re doing it for the right ones?

If you recognize yourself in any of these five reasons for not hiring a PR firm, that’s a sign you need to take a step back and reconsider whether (W)right On Communications, or any good PR firm, is right for you. Now, that said, if you’ve reviewed the aforementioned list and feel that you’re ready to get serious about strategy, storytelling, scope and budgets–and an integrated strategic communications partner sounds like just the ticket; let’s get down to business.

Want to Talk?

We’re communicators, so we love to listen as much as we love to talk. Get in touch so we can feel each other out.

We want to know what your business objectives are so we can share with you how we’ll help meet them. Knowing what your time frame and budget are for reaching them gives us everything we need to turn around a proposal for you. Email us at info@wrightoncomm.com or call (213) 633-7575 to start the ball rolling.

Not Convinced? Check Out Our Client Testimonials

We’ve compiled a few recent client testimonials on our website, plus over 20 case studies on our award-winning programs.

(W)right On Launches “The Strategist”

The Strategist Newsletter

The first quarter of 2018 was a roller-coaster ride for communicators grappling with Facebook’s big changes and PR troubles. We’ve strapped in and are waiting to see where its twists and turns take us next. But, in the meantime, Facebook gave us a timely topic for the first issue of our new publication, The Strategist newsletter.

Get our newsletter to stay in the know

(W)right On Communications launched The Strategist newsletter as a service to clients and friends last week. It’s a bite-sized serving of what’s new, now and next in communications.

Each issue, we tackle a subject of big-time interest to brands and communicators. We share our own professional experiences, links to the best articles from our industry reading and relevant content from our own writings and presentations.

So, we invite you to subscribe to the The Strategist newsletter. You’ll also find the subscription pop-up window here on our website.

Read our inaugural issue

In case you missed it, we’ve provided a link to our first issue here.

In it, we shared a roundup of recommended reading on Facebook. These include:

WOC Strategist newsletter

Our team manages multiple Facebook pages for our clients. And it has been an interesting time. Our experience has shown that Facebook’s changes are beneficial to businesses and nonprofits who have cultivated dedicated local followings. When page managers engage their followers with “throwbacks,” heartfelt content and smart boosting and targeting, Facebook is an incredibly productive platform.

We would love to hear your feedback

Please drop us a line. Let us know what kind of content you’d like to see tackled in a future issue of The Strategist.  Send your requests to editor@wrightoncomm.com. We’d love to hear from you!

Scaramucci’s Top 5 Fails as a Professional Communicator

strategy is choosing what not to do

strategy is choosing what not to do

By Julie Wright —President

Twitter: @juliewright


If any good comes from Anthony Scaramucci’s 10 days as White House director of communications, I hope it’s the realization that being a professional communicator is no cakewalk and, truly, best left to people who have invested their careers in the profession.

Just as it’s easy to quarterback an NFL team from behind your TV remote, it’s easy to watch a White House press briefing and offer your take on messaging, delivery or timing.

The Mooch was more than a modern-day Icarus who flew too close to the sun – or some other fiery orange orb. He was someone who underestimated how hard good, strategic communication is and how costly and unforgiving bad communication is.

I’ve said it before: there are no shortcuts to PR glory.

The following is a list of cardinal communications sins Scaramucci committed in his short-lived career in strategic communications.

1. Having no communications strategy.

What was the strategy?

Based on the sound bites in the first few days, it was hard to tell. Guess what? You can’t communicate successfully without a solid communication strategy that has the buy-in of your team and client or boss. Scaramucci did submit a communications plan, shared by CNN here (thanks to my former boss, Della Smith, for sharing this link), but it is more of a lengthy memo full of platitudes and commandments that are far easier to promise than they are to deliver. And, again, there’s no overarching strategy. It’s a tactical plan and glorified to-do list for Scaramucci and hardly something a professional communicator would recognize.

The strategy should be based on research and data to support clear and measurable objectives. Ultimately, the strategy guides your decisions and ensures that you’re speaking via the right channels with the right messages to reach the right audiences.

The Mooch opened his kimono to the New Yorker. Not exactly the publication read by the President’s base. His approach showed he was communicating to an audience of one and, to be fair, his communications plan did say that “Comms is a Customer Service Operation—POTUS is the Number One Customer.” However, making the boss happy is not a viable communications strategy.

2. Asking questions without knowing the answers

Professional communicators know that you do not ask questions to which you don’t know the answers. You do your research.

Why? Because credibility is as perishable as a bowl of fresh guacamole at the company picnic.

Professional communicators will often put a five- or 10-minute time delay on their email outbox. They’ll read and re-read an important Tweet before they push it out.

They do this in the same way that they wouldn’t walk into a press briefing without knowing exactly what questions to expect and preparing for them, like his former boss recently did in a press briefing where he was asked about Hezbollah.

So, that’s why a professional communicator would not toss out a Tweet like Scaramucci did accusing the White House chief of staff of leaking Scaramucci’s financial disclosure statement. That document was requested by a reporter and it was released 30 days after Scaramucci had been appointed to the Import-Export Bank as its chief strategy officer in late June.

Professional communicators base their communications on research and data. These elements inform your strategy so that by the time you’re actually communicating, it’s on a solid platform that you can feel confident will produce the desired results. You don’t wing it.

3. Not realizing that nothing is off the record.

OK, first, was The New Yorker interview off the record at all? The reporter says Scaramucci never requested that it be, but later Scaramucci implied he thought it was.

Regardless, the first and last rule of expert media training is that nothing is off the record. The generally accepted rule about going off the record is that it’s up to the source to say in advance that what they’re about to say is off the record. You cannot do it after the fact.

A best rule of thumb is that if you don’t want to be quoted saying something, don’t say it.

It’s not a tough rule to learn, but it sure as heck is a tough lesson to learn when you get it wrong.

4. No key messages

What are key messages?

They’re your mantra, your sermon and your three-point shot all wrapped up in one. You figure out what points you’re trying to make in media interviews before you participate in media interviews.

If I had to retroactively decipher Scaramucci’s key messages based on his interviews and Tweets, they would be: “don’t trust Reince Priebus;” “do trust Sarah Huckabee Sanders and expect her to get ‘better;” “Scaramucci loves the President;” and “Scaramucci has no control over the President’s / White House’s communications agenda.”

After all, amid the White House communications team changes, the President Tweeted that the military would no longer allow transgender men and women to serve. A total surprise to all. And again, no strategy, no messaging and no research or planning to understand the implications.

Scaramucci did mention in his communications plan that “Every Comms message needs to have a nexus to Make America Great Again and jobs.” But if he made either of those points in his New Yorker interview, I certainly missed them, and his many other expletives, insults and accusations would have overshadowed any of them.

5. Not knowing who his friends were before making enemies.

Coming into a new position, it is not unheard of to get pressure from a new boss to clean house for them. If the boss wants to get stuff done and his or her team is struggling to advance their agenda, they will look to find new people capable of carrying out their vision.

But when you become the boss’s enforcer, the first thing you do should not be to put everyone on notice and instill fear and anxiety. That just takes a bad situation and makes it worse. Particularly when your communications plan says priority #1 is improving the culture, as Scaramucci’s did.

You start by building your alliances so that by the time the tough decisions must be made, you’ve created alignment with the people who are staying rather than fear and mistrust.

In other words, you figure out who your friends are first. Even if the President of the United States is your friend, and loves you, you need friends in the trenches with you.

It’s a tough job, being a communicator. It’s highly visible. It’s prone to second guessing. And the stakes are often high while involving judgment calls. That’s why experience counts so very much. As does having a strategy, basing it on solid information, having clear messages to guide your communications, staying away from off-the-cuff comments to the media, and surrounding yourself with people you can trust and with whom you can confidently go into battle.

Get one of these five things wrong and you’ll probably lose a little sleep or have some tough conversations with your boss. But get all five wrong and you’re out of a job and an international punchline.