What better way to start the year than stating the obvious that good people come first in PR? The ability to deal effectively with a wide range of people is the all-important number one skill of an effective public relations professional. Being a good person, then, provides n incalculable benefit to making a significant contribution to excellent stakeholder relations.
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Of course, there are a range of factors nothing to do with being a good person which help make a PR practitioner effective at their job. The second most important characteristic, for instance, being the ability to write effectively. By this I mean more than a Facebook or Twitter update. Examples range from media releases to annual report content to thought leadership pieces.
At the core of the writing skill is, of course, the ability to tell a story. This is an ability which professionals must be able manifest face-to-face with organisational stakeholders. Not only that; like any form of professional communication, the story needs to be articulated in a fluid manner responsive to the interests and concerns of the stakeholder being communicated with (e.g. customisation).
For this to occur as effectively as possible, a significant degree of empathy is required in the storyteller. Whilst it is not an entirely necessary characteristic in this context, having a sophisticated empathy capability will provide insights into stakeholders which helps build bonds between them and the PR professional.
And as storytelling so often entails collaborating with others, empathy facilitates gaining information to build and enrich the content and stories which are being developed.
Empathy is a pretty hard characteristic to fake. People tend to see through the facade of those who aren’t sincere in its expression. Which can also be said of people’s perception towards organisations which fail in delivering their brand promise.
Traits of a good person
Some of the traits of a good person – honesty, integrity, trustworthiness – are those which the anthropomorphised organisation must also possess in a large enough degree to ensure positive organisation-stakeholder relationships.
So being a good person is analogous in the practice of PR, as well as also being necessarily inherent in the manner in which professional communication/stakeholder management is applied for it to be as effective as it can possibly be.
Leadership in PR by being ‘good’
For me, a lot of it boils down to how you choose to treat and deal with people. This commonly manifests itself in the trait of leadership.
Leadership does not necessarily mean you are in charge of a team of people. It is more about the way you go about your life, including your professional life.
What sort of example are you setting? Are you the sort of person/professional who others less experienced than you aspire to be like? Do you publicly praise and privately criticise? Do you make it a habit to communicate with people face-to-face or under the cloak of email and/or social media? Do people seek your advice?
Will people come to you for help even when they know it will negatively impact on their own reputation? In other words, are you a calm port in a gathering storm?
The subtle forms of leadership noted here are a direct reflection of the sort of person you are perceived to be. Because human relationships and the impact these have on reputation are such an integral element of public relations, leadership has more resonance and importance in this professional discipline than many others.
If you can’t walk the talk (and who would argue that PR does not have a large amount of ‘talk’ inherent in it?), then it is likely you will not reach the heights you may perhaps aspire to within the realm of public relations.
Half-glass full for PR
The PR attitude to our discipline is a necessarily half-glass full one.
At its most fundamental, an employer or client will simply not tolerate a negative, defeatist approach to stakeholder relations. Whilst pragmatism is a necessary feature of a business environment, underlying this a positive approach to achieving objectives needs to applied.
Being positive and primed for success is more likely to come from a good person than from one who by default sees little chance for triumph. Being positive also feeds into the energy which is applied to difficult situations, ones where a greater degree of strategy and creativity is required.
Can you describe situations where being a good or ‘less than good’ person in PR has impacted on results achieved, or the impact on others of taking one of the two approaches? Can you describe benefits of being a good person in PR, and/or why is a particularly unique or relevant to the practice of the discipline?
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