Public relations is about putting the best foot and the best face of a brand forward, but it’s also about quickly doing damage control when things don’t go as planned.
The fast-paced track at which PR professionals are required to act matched with the impact and influence that they must have on others about what their brand stands for is a skill set that can easily transfer into any other industry and to any professional, from the corporate to the self-employed.
Whether you are looking to improve upon your personal or professional brand, struggling with how to have your voice heard, or aiming to fix a crisis, here are a few key PR skills Black Enterprise learned at (and after) the Museum of Public Relations Celebrating Black PR Pioneers event, held on May 3 at Baruch College in New York City.
These easily transferable tips bestowed by budding and seasoned public relations practitioners teach the importance of building a solid brand, taking chances, and becoming an influencer in your own professional or personal space. Read on to take yourself to the next level.
Find and use your voice, especially if you’re the only minority in the room
Trisch Smith, executive vice president at PR firm Edelman, stresses to professionals of any field that you belong, and certainly deserve, to be in the room and to have a seat at the table.
“And not only do you have a voice, but your ideas, insights, and perspectives matter. Whether you’re an intern or a senior executive, don’t allow your voice to be muted,” she said in an email to Black Enterprise.
“Diversity of background, thought, and experience are crucial when helping companies and brands navigate and provide solutions to society’s most complex challenges. Your contributions could be the key to your client’s or company’s success as well as your professional and personal growth.”
Danielle C. Richards, the diversity and inclusion lead at Arthur W. Page Society, also echoed this sentiment.
“It’s important to understand that your voice is so important, and that your opinion and perspective could be the one thing that changes your company’s trajectory,” she said.
Another career tip from The Museum of Public Relations celebration of black PR pioneers, if you're 1 of the few blacks in the room: speak up pic.twitter.com/NWHYxqgbUP— Black Enterprise (@blackenterprise) May 5, 2017
Know the business side of your company
This one is easy for entrepreneurs. But for the corporate ladder climbers, whether in public relations or another industry, it’s important to understand the impact your role might play on the company’s bottom line.
“If you’re going to be considered for more senior roles later on, you’ve got to become a business partner and stop being just a PR practitioner,” says David Albritton, executive director, Global Product Communications at General Motors. “You need to understand how money is made at your organization, whether it’s a corporation or nonprofit.”
Don’t let fear consume you
“It’s quite normal to be a little uneasy, especially when navigating uncharted waters, but don’t let fear paralyze or stop you from being and doing you,” Smith says.
“Moreover, don’t be afraid to fail. Oftentimes, our greatest successes and lessons come from perceived failures, mistakes, or missteps. You will only regret the time you lost, the chances you missed, or the opportunities you passed up because of fear.”
Personal hardships can bring professional ease
Ever wonder why some people just seem to handle challenges and crises so calmly, not freaking out under pressure? According to Troy P. Thompson, digital communications associate at Public Relations Society of America, one reason could be having to deal with personal hardships. Those setbacks and adversities can serve as a blessing in disguise in the corporate world, enabling a professional to act instead of react, with a level head.
“When you got through a lot in your life—whether you grow up in a single parent household, or don’t have access to financial resources, or having dealt with a lot of loss—going through all of that allows you to know who you are,” he said.
“And moving forward in a career like PR where it’s very turbulent at times, it allows you to stay calm. You become a more measured person and a more capable person in times of emergency.”
Find a mentor
This age-old advice never goes out of style—and applies to every sector.
“Most recognize that mentorship is valuable throughout your career. However, it’s natural to look to others who are just like us or have similar backgrounds and interests to serve as a mentor,” Smith says, challenging young and mid-level professionals to step outside of their circle and engage people who can offer a variety of perspectives.
“Also, identifying multiple mentors who can offer guidance and insights on a variety of areas are helpful when figuring out the next step in your career or life. I have mentors who provide career guidance, life tips, financial recommendations, and more,” she added.
Thompson noted that a big part of mentorship is having the courage to reach out in the first place.
“A lot of times you may think ‘Who am I to take up their time,’ but I think it’s something you have to realize we all feel and it’s something we have to go through,” he said.
“If you want that wealth of advice they have, you have to ask them for a cup of coffee or a 15-minute phone call. It’s a scary thing but it’s something that you have to overcome if you want to get to the next level.”