This summer, I’ve spent my days teaching children how to play piano. Although my students have learned quite a bit about musical technicalities and how to play more than just “Chopsticks,” I also have learned a thing or two about public relations. I certainly didn’t approach the piano teaching position with the intent of walking away with more PR knowledge under my belt, but alas, that seems to be exactly what is happening.
My students taught me 4 skills every public relations professional should know.
1) Be flexible: Things happen. Schedules shift or change altogether and you find yourself scrambling to think of a last minute alternative. Flexibility is critical. Whether you work in music education or the public relations field, being able to shift your schedule to meet demands exemplifies an important and desirable characteristic. The phrase “stay flexible,” common terminology for public relations practitioners, will always remain a quality that sets a person apart from others unable to adjust to last minute changes. Easier said than done, but oh so worth it in the end.
2) Think on your feet: One of my students was struggling to learn a particular piece of difficult music. I sensed her excitement quickly depleting and frustration starting to take its place. “How about you play the left hand and I’ll play the right hand, and then we’ll switch?” I suggested. She perked up and eagerly agreed. It was a different take on the piece, but she was learning. Transforming a mundane task into a new experience changes the whole perspective. Public relations is problem solving. If something doesn’t work, think of an alternative. If a communication tactic or idea fails, always be ready with a Plan B.
3) Communicate at their level: Sometimes, a certain idea becomes so much a part of you that you forget that it doesn’t make sense to other people. If you’ve ever spoken a foreign language to someone and they look at you like you’ve gone mad, you have experienced this concept. It made sense to you, but to them, it was unfamiliar. Teaching piano lessons opened my eyes to this. Explaining to a child how to tell the difference between dynamic markings posed an interesting obstacle for me. Break it down. I took it step by step, relating the concepts to Star Wars characters. Think outside of the box. Relatable communication is effective communication. Anything else will just spin your audience in confusing circles.
4) Manage your time wisely: Music lessons are only so long. In that amount of time, I must accomplish numerous things. I discovered setting goals boosts productivity. If possible, figure out what tasks will take more time than others. This helps to reduce stress and the probability of being overwhelmed. Time management, a skill that promotes a public relations practitioner from average to outstanding, requires patience, organization, and determination. By staying diligent in your work, your goals will become realities and the results will be rewarding. (Bonus: it also keeps you sane!)
My students help me in my journey towards a public relations career. By teaching me flexibility, time management, message adjusting, and thinking in the moment, my piano teaching job proves to be more than merely helping kids learn an instrument. It has not only given me skills needed in everyday life, but surprisingly, it has also given me a summer full of public-relations-making memories.
– Keri Betters