R in PR is ‘relationship’

Part 2: Practical application

SPE_5916The drilling job I was scheduled to cover in Ohio was suddenly replaced by an emergency job order: an Amish family’s well was bringing up sand.

The only source of water for the family and all of its livestock, the windmill-style well probably had a casing failure at the bottom. Manual labor is a fundamental tenet of Amish culture, but the community’s presiding cleric permitted modern technology in this instance.

My client and were allowed to follow along. He let me out at the homestead’s drive so I could run ahead of the rig. I saw an opportunity to show its maneuverability in confined spaces as the driver positioned it next to the windmill.


Got it!—but then I immediately recapped my cameras. They were hanging low at my sides as I watched as the Amish father stride off his porch across the frozen, rutted ground to discuss terms with the driller. He was repeatedly looking over to me. I made it as obvious as I could, I was not going to take more pictures without permission as I approached them. I waited patiently for a break in their conversation.

At a convenient moment, I introduced myself, explaining my purpose and asking what concerns he might have about photography on his property, assuring him I would abide by his wishes.

I could tell he appreciated the consideration. He bridled a bit at my humble recognition: he was in control of this property, his home.

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw gratitude in the driller’s regard of me. Distracted by the sudden change in plans, he wouldn’t have anticipated the potential conflict of bringing a photographer to a camera-wary culture. My intervention, though, wasn’t simply to diffuse it. I am myself a homeowner, a father, a family man. I have genuine respect for this man, as the driller himself does. And I have years of experience working for an agency where the R in PR is for relationship. This is what I do, every job, every story.

SPE_5928 remove faces from windowThe Amish father surprised us: “I guess we aren’t supposed to allow any pictures of people, but otherwise a few of the drilling will be all right.” He looked me straight in the eye, repeating, “But no pictures with people.”

I worked fast, balancing respect for the farmer against doing the best job for my client. Within the hour the Amish father was alongside me again. Had I gotten enough?

I understood. I capped the lenses, telling him, “Yes, and thank you again. I am done now.” I stowed my gear away.

The father’s body language changed from nervousness to eager hospitality. He invited me in for coffee.

I found myself next in a warm kitchen of bonneted women in billowy blue dresses and white aprons. The coffee was a richly aromatic brew, strong and flavorful, brewed in a pot on the kitchen’s wood stove. Given more baked goods than I could cradle against my chest, a chair was pulled out for me as I was guided by numerous hands to the table. After only a few nibbles, he showed me around his home.

A little bit of respect won lavish Amish hospitality, gratitude from their driller and smiles from my customer.

Ellcom doesn’t get in your way while we’re getting the job done. Just like you, we put people first.





Joe Bradfield is senior writer for Ellenbecker Communications.