What I Learned Working With the Great Shambhu N. Vineberg

0825a_27I came to Vineberg Communications as a complete novice looking for a basic summer internship in Public Relations. I was a good writer and I had just figured out in my freshman year at the University of Oregon that I wanted to work in sports pr. Problem was, no professional sports teams or agencies wanted to hire a freshman with no previous public relations experience. So I said, what the heck, I don’t know anything about technology, but I can learn it and pr is pr; this will put me ahead of the game for next year. All I was hoping for was to get some experience learning the basics of pr. But in reality, I’ve come away with so much more.

To put it succinctly, Shambhu is not your typical public relations professional. Not too many pr people spent their entire 20’s dedicating their entire life to a spiritual guru, or spend as much time playing guitar than pitching clients. But that’s just Shambhu being Shambhu. He has his own, yet incredibly successful, way for everything. Whether it comes to pitching companies, playing music, or conversing with his local Starbucks barista, Shambhu, well, to put it in a word, is eccentric. The things I’ve learned from him in just three shorts months, are possibly more than what I’ll get out of my entire old-school college pr education. For those of you who are aspiring public relation professionals, here are just a few of the invaluable things I learned this summer:

Anything is attainable. To accomplish anything, you have to believe it. If you’re playing shortstop and a ground ball comes bouncing your way, if you let the possibility of overthrowing the first baseman creep into your head, you’ve already failed. Believing in yourself is the first step to success. Once you know that you will succeed, all it takes is putting your plan into action. Exhibit A: back when Neil was studying under the guru, Sri Chinmoy, he wanted Neil to put on a world peace run to spread the guru’s message. Neil started with just a blank piece of paper, but with the motivation and desire to succeed, he ended up with a hugely successful international event with the backing of celebrities such as Carl Lewis and Clarence Clemens. No matter where you start, if you have the passion and perseverance to accomplish something, anything, then you will find a way to get it done.

Perspective. To be able to look at a product and find the best way to market it, you can’t just look at it one way. You need to understand the product from every person’s point of view. Why would C-level execs be interested? What about the trendy college students? Or middle management? There are so many people in this world that you need to be able to be aware of more than just yourself, so you can have as many people interested in your product as possible.

Perception. For people to be interested in a product, there has to be something about it that makes it stand out. Be it, sexiness, trendiness, uniqueness, easiness to use, the first, the best, something. People want to be associated with cool things. That’s why there’s such an obsession with celebrities in this country. Shambhu told a story where he was at a party and wasn’t really standing out. Eventually, he goes up to Angelina Jolie and has a 10 minutes conversation. Next thing he knows, people are all over him thinking he’s hot stuff just because he conversed with an A-list celebrity as an equal.

Relate to People. To get people to want to help you out, you need to be able to connect with them on a higher level. When you pitch a story to an editor, they get hundreds of e-mails everyday, everybody is selling them stories. If you can connect to them on a higher level, maybe ask them where they are from and keep the conversation light and interesting, they will feel your good vibes and be more interested in hearing out your story idea. Most people just try to cram stories down their throats, so when you take time out of your day to talk about something that isn’t necessarily beneficial to yourself and take an interest in who they are, you separate yourself from 95% of the competition.

And it’s not just about people you’re trying to do business with. The world is a very karmic place, so if you spread your good vibes and happiness to people you encounter a daily basis, it will come back and reward you later.

One of the things I admire most about Shambhu is his ability to make conversations with people and spread his warmth to visibly brighten their day. Case in point: at Starbucks the other day, the barista asked how he was doing. Instead of giving the ho-hum, “doin’ ok” response she was expecting, he bellowed an enthusiastic “lovin’ life!” which in turn, caused her to spontaneously break out a toothy grin, exposing the slight gap in her teeth as she giggled candidly, for what looked like the first time all day.

Work With Smart People. Not everybody has this luxury, but Shambhu has put himself in a position where he has the power to pick and choose every single client he works with, constantly turning down clients and blank checks because he doesn’t believe they have what it takes to succeed. If your name is associated with a company that failed, that failure will be associated with you forever and it puts a blemish on your record.

I’m sure there are thousands of other things I have learned hangin’ at Shambhu’s place this summer, but there isn’t enough bandwidth in space for me to fit it. He has pushed me to do things that I never would have done on my own, and helped me do them successfully. So far this summer, I have contributed to his company’s blog, written press releases, done research for his book, built connections and relationships for my future, pitched companies and much more. For not knowing what to expect when this internship started, I think it turned out about as well as I could have expected.

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