By Manship School public relations instructor Doug Draper
What could be more fun than having a movie star come to your class? Besides a visit by Drew Brees, not much would top it. That was the experience for students in two of my Manship School public relations classes this week. Actor and author Laura Cayouette graciously accepted my invitation to be a guest speaker and delivered profound advice.
Laura has appeared in more than 60 movies and TV shows, being most well known for her role as Leonardo DiCaprio’s sister in “Django Unchained.” Her other movies include “Kill Bill Volume 2,” “Enemy of the State” and “Now You See Me.” On TV, she appeared in “Friends,” “House of Cards” and Oprah Winfrey’s “Queen Sugar.” She has written screenplays and seven books, including the Charlotte Reade mystery series and “Lemonade Farm.”
When I listened to Laura discuss her work at the Jambalaya Writers’ Conference a few weeks ago, I knew that my students would love to hear her insights about how to write in a way that grabs the audience’s attention and creates a lasting impression. I’m always looking for role models for my students and thought Laura would be perfect.
Academy Award winner Kevin Costner agrees with me. He wrote a review of Laura’s book “Know Small Parts” in which he said, “She is a role model … and a true leading lady.” Richard Dreyfuss, another Academy Award winner, wrote the foreword for the book and complimented Laura for being “amazingly correct in everything she says and sees.”
Laura politely listened to my sales pitch at the conference and thought the visit sounded fun. It helped that she has several LSU connections, including her parents. Both attended LSU and her father served as class president three times. Her mother-in-law even took Manship School classes. It thrilled me that Laura agreed to make the trip to LSU from her home in New Orleans.
While telling memorable stories of her years in Hollywood, she delivered five powerful messages.
- Begin the writing process with a plan that includes a mission statement, schedule and outline. As a writer, you need a road map to know where you’re going and how to get there as well as motivation to carry you throughout the journey.
- Writing demands editing, rewriting and proofreading. That’s the secret to writing. It’s what separates words from stories, prose from poetry and professionals from amateurs.
- Preparation opens doors immediately or later. It’s the price you pay to be the kind of job candidate that causes your potential boss to lose sleep thinking about how to hire you.
- Own your space. Stand out in small roles to create the chance for bigger ones.
- Dare to fail. If you don’t try, you’re guaranteed to miss the chance to do something great.
In closing, Laura said, “Be a pro, be prepared, instill confidence that you are the solution to the problems of those who trust you with a job or task and the investment to make it possible.”
Laura’s secrets for success work in roles far less glamorous than being a movie star. While serving as a PR professional for manufacturers and banks, I’ve applied her tips of writing with a purpose, being prepared and owning my space. The Manship School serves as a great place for students to learn and begin applying these secrets wherever they land—Tinseltown, Wall Street or Silicon Valley.