When you sign up for a career in PR, you accept the reality that you’ll always be fighting for respect.
You resign yourself to the fact that when you pull up your chair to the conference room table, the dudes will look right through you while they’re sizing each other up by the prestige of the MBA schools on their LinkedIn profiles. They probably don’t even notice you are there until you start talking, and generally don’t even realize that they’re interrupting you once you do.
When that happens, remember the PR guy who was also a victim of this lack of respect, but who then turned the tables on the “suits” and became a legend you’ve never heard of.
Bill Rasmussen was the public information officer for the minor league hockey team in Hartford, Conn. Not the pinnacle of our field. And when the team had a bad year on the ice, they dealt with that by unceremoniously firing him. Makes sense right? Put out a bad product, then shoot the messenger.
Instead of sulking, Bill explored an interest he’d been nurturing. This was some time ago, and he had the idea to televise high school sports around the state of Connecticut. He had no background in TV, but he knew there was an audience there.
So he started asking around, and one of his friends told him about this new form of broadcasting that involved using a satellite. That same day, Bill called up the company behind the technology. There was so little interest in satellite broadcasting that the sales guy drove out to meet Bill the next day.
He tried selling Bill the right to broadcast five hours a day on the satellite. But Bill ran the numbers, and realized it would be cheaper to buy the whole 24 hours a day (remember, Bill had no content yet). He maxed out his credit card – and all his family members’ – and started building out this network.
A short time later, a Wall Street investment bank called and offered him millions of dollars for his slot on the satellite. What would you do? You’ve been laid off from your job, you’re deep in debt, and you have an offer that would make you rich by the end of the day?
Bill shot them down. He realized that this meant he had something really valuable. He kept scrapping and brought in some investors. He expanded to college sports, and then even pro sports.
And then, five years after he got fired, he sold the network he founded to ABC for $476 million in today’s dollars. To the guys with MBAs who should have been the ones to think this kind of thing up in the first place.
So the next time someone disses you – purposefully or inadvertently – because you’re in PR, just say to yourself four letters: “E-S-P-N.” And remember what you’re really capable of.