unexpectedIt’s often said in PR that you have to expect the unexpected. You’ve probably heard a million times that there is no ‘typical day’ in the life of PR. This is because things change at the drop of a hat and you are always switching gears multiple times throughout the day and changing your plans at the last minute to accommodate clients, media, or any number of last minute developments. It can be tricky, because PR people have to be very organized and task oriented in order to get everything done, which often translates to the type of people who plan their days, live by ‘to do’ lists, and never go anywhere without their agenda book. Yet even with meticulously planned out days, sometimes down to the hour (or quarter hour), you have to expect the unexpected and be able to have  your day go in a completely different direction with no warning.

Even though there is obviously no way to actually expect the unexpected, there are some things you can do to roll with the punches and make sure that it doesn’t bog you down or discourage you from getting everything done that you needed to.

Keep a running to do list– Carry this with you. Keep up a current, running to do list of all the immediate tasks you need to get done. Add to it as things come up or change. Write down literally everything so nothing slips through the cracks or gets forgotten. You never know when the phone will ring and you will be completely distracted from everything you were planning to do. Even if you never get to the second thing on your list for the day, you can review it at the end of the day to make sure you can finish up the most important tasks and know what you should start with the next morning.

Come up with backup plans– While you never can really know for sure what will come up, there are some ways that you can plan for different situations. Have a few different scenarios for each day, especially if you have something especially important planned. Not to be a pessimist, but think of what could go wrong, or make things more difficult for you, and think about what you can do to mitigate the damage. This can be useful in even the smallest instance, like if a meeting is cancelled at the last minute, or the train breaks down and you can’t get into the office in time. Always be prepared and have different ways of dealing with things so that if the unexpected happens, you have a chance of already being one step ahead.

Communicate well– Things come up. They always do. Whether they are positive or negative, it’s always best to communicate clearly and quickly with everyone involved.  This is easiest and best if you already always have good communication with everyone on a regular basis. If something happens and you have to break potentially bad news to a client, talk to them right away and be upfront about it. If you find out your plans are changing at the last minute, be sure to let your team know and anyone else that you were planning to interact with that day. It’s better to let someone know that your plan may have to change as early as possible and playing it by ear, than waiting until the last second to mention that something changed or that you need help.

Regroup and get organized– At the end of each day, when you have a chance to catch your breath (and yes this may not be until 10 PM) go over the outstanding tasks you need to accomplish. I do this at night just before going to bed. Start your to do list for the next day, review anything you may need to have ready for the morning, and dare I say it- bang out a few quick things in the quiet of night that will take a bit off your plate for the next day. Sometimes it can take ten minutes at the end of a day to finish a couple little things that have been hanging over your head for days but you never get to during the workday. Dealing with them when you have the time frees you up for the things you need to do during working hours and guarantees you will have a few crucial things done for the next day even if something comes up and take you away from your regular schedule.