What PR has in Common with the Hike of My Life

March 11, 2019

Kauai’s Napali coast is one of the most unspoiled places on the planet. In a world where it is getting more and more difficult to escape the crowds, Kalalau Beach is one of the few remaining places where a person doesn’t feel like she is sharing space with six billion other humans. There are no cars, roads, boats or aircraft that have access to that beach. It’s heaven on Earth, but the only way to get there is over a rugged 11-mile trail. Ranked one of Outside Magazine’s 20 most dangerous hikes in the world, it is not for the faint of heart.

Hiking Kalalau was a transformative experience for me, and though it was during a different phase in my life, I think of it often. As I started brainstorming this month’s newsletter about travel PR, my mind inevitably wandered to the Napali Coast and that amazing hike. It didn’t take long for me to realize the parallels between the challenges I faced, and the challenges many of our clients face in their communications activities. I truly hope that you get out and climb your own Everest, but in case that’s not on your to-do list this year, here are a few lessons learned from the hike of my life:

  • Prepare: Experienced backpackers know that a well prepared pack can be the difference between exhaustion and energy; between success and failure. Before the hike we applied for permits, mapped out the trail, calculated our water and food rations and purchased the gear we needed. A solid PR plan is no different. Make sure you are fully ready before setting out, or your results will suffer.
  • Uncertainty is OK – but keep it in check: A healthy dose of doubt is normal and useful. Overconfidence can lead to mistakes, which in some cases can be seriously detrimental to your goals. Though I was mentally, physically and logistically prepared for Kalalau, we started the hike with some uncertainty. The key was in our attitude – we let the uncertainty drive our excitement and anticipation for what was to come, rather than letting it get in the way.
  • The journey will go up and down – and up again: The Kalalau trail traverses five valleys, climbing up and down between sea level and as high as 800 feet at times. The total elevation gain over its 11 miles is 5,000 feet. It’s a fitting metaphor for marketing and PR. Things won’t always go your way, and there may be downturns. But ultimately, if you keep moving forward, progress will head upward again soon.
  • If you can’t walk, crawl: Crawler’s Ledge is a harrowing section of cliffs about seven miles into the Kalalau Trail. Hikers must traverse along a narrow ledge on the cliffs, more than 400 feet above crashing ocean waves. Not wanting to die, I nearly turned around at that point in the hike. Climbing over the rocks, looking hundreds of feet into the water below, I was sure my heavy backpack would topple me straight down. But instead of giving up, I hugged the cliff and with my heart pounding, shuffled my feet little by little until it was over. My husband even managed a quick photo to prove that I could do it. In PR, there will be times when challenges feel insurmountable, but even if you have to crawl, getting somewhere is better than giving up.
  • The destination is worth the effort: I’ve had the good fortune to travel to some amazing places. Nothing has compared to the beauty and immensity of Kalalau Beach. It is truly magical, and was worth every bit of sweat, tears and blisters it took to get there. A great month, quarter or year in PR is analogous. Results don’t always come easy, but just think of the pride and fulfillment you’ll feel when you nail the Wall Street Journal interview, help your sales team close a big deal or see that long-awaited feature coverage. I long to go back to Kalalau and know that I someday will. And just like any worthwhile destination – whether in business or your personal life – the hard work to get there is so worth it.

-Ashley Allman, Director of Content


Photo credit: https://kalalautrail.com/gallery/sven-bannuscher/

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