You would typically expect the successful PR person to be a charming extrovert, right? Someone who exudes self-confidence, doesn’t exhibit an ounce of reservation and who does not have a shy bone in his/her body. A person who is outgoing, gregarious, unfailingly “on” and is never at a loss for words.
Well that is not, and never has been, me. I’m may not be shy, but I am reserved. I am personable, but it takes me a while to warm up to people. I am open and genuine, but careful about what I do, and do not, reveal. I am talkative, but find “small talk” a chore.
Social outings, cocktail parties and events are more “work” than “pleasure” although I do enjoy myself once I am there. While meeting new people doesn’t makes me anxious per se, it does not top my list of “favourite things to do”. No matter how well I know my audience and how familiar I am with my material, presentations always make my pulse speed up, my heart move up into my throat from my chest and sets the butterflies fluttering in my middle.
I am an introvert.
And from my perspective, I will argue that introverts make not only good, but great, public relations professionals, even on the front line.
There have been many articles about introverts in the news lately. Evidence seems to point to the current environment favouring extroversion over introversion, evidenced by the predominance of “team” culture, brainstorming, cubicle farms. But human beings are adaptable and extroversion and introversion comprise either end of a sliding scale, so that most people fall somewhere in between the extremes that characterize an introvert versus an extrovert.
I first took a Myers-Briggs test in the 80’s. It was only then I understood that introversion was the term which described my somewhat reticent personality.
I have never been hesitant to speak out, however I rarely do so impulsively. I consider my words, their import and carefully watch the body language of my audience.
To put myself out there, I must always first deal with the fear of doing so, which involves weighting the possible consequences of what I have to say, and making myself say it anyway. I believe that the regular practice of forcing oneself to overcome reticence or fear allows you to learn to not let it restrict you.
As the person responsible for the PR of large health and beauty aids company for more than 15 years, I also acted as principal contact and spokesperson. The company considered our efforts in PR and communication very successful.
Don’t get me wrong, we worked with a great PR agency, so I do not and cannot take sole or full credit. Along with significant attribution to my colleagues there, some of that credit also belongs to the great products, strong strategy and Marketing efforts, as well as the fabulously loyal consumer base that used our products. I do believe, however, that I certainly helped contribute to the overall success of our efforts. Which is one of the reasons I’m arguing that it is possible for an introvert to be a good at Public Relations.
Introverts Make Good PR People Because:
Introverts try harder. Introverts tend to be self-aware because they are less externally focused.
This help might explain why they tend to be their own harshest critics. If there is something that they want to do, they want to be good at it. It’s like a personal challenge. So they will concentrate, strive, practice and improve so that they master whatever they try.
They know their shortcomings. Being self-aware also lets you have a good appreciation of most of your little character flaws. Someone once told me they felt I wasn’t giving them my full attention when they were talking to me. Since then, I have always made it a point to turn away from my electronic devices or anything that might distract me, so I can be sure to give whomever I am talking to my full attention. So, if I thought I wasn’t good at socializing, I would make an effort to ensure I did I whatever I thought was needed in order to improve my social skills, for instance: read books, watch videos, observe others and get out there and do it.
They are mindful of the objectives, the situation and the strategy. Introverts tend to consider the bigger picture, they are oriented to context and background. When they do things, they tend to understand the “why” of what is required and how it fits into the overall plan, rather just performing a task.
Introverts listen. Or, at least they listen more than they talk. This allowed me to observe and note details to remember that helped me build relationships. I would remember and often note down, after conversations, birthdays, favourite colour, children’s names, likes/dislikes and/or significant events.
Introverts engage. Introverts listen, which helps enable two-way reciprocal dialogue – an exchange of information – some of it tailored. Extroverts may spend more time transmitting information than receiving it. There is no question they get the message across, but are they maximizing the opportunity?
Introverts face fear on a regular basis. Maybe fear is too strong a word, but introverts often find themselves in social, public or work-related situations where they have to perform/conform despite their discomfort with group work, presentations, meetings, introductions and other necessary interaction. Whereas an extrovert would anticipate each television or radio interview with excitement, as company spokesperson, I saw it as a necessary evil, and would be reviewing my notes and talking points, right up to the time I walked on the set.
They want to learn, understand and excel. Introverts have a learning bent. They get much of their stimulation and satisfaction through the acquisition of knowledge, it’s important to them to “know their stuff”. Because when it’s time to contribute, they want their contribution to be meaningful.
So while it may seem counter-intuitive to believe that an introvert can excel in an environment seemingly created for extroverts, I would argue that it’s not just possible for an introvert to be a good PR person, it’s probable that they will make a great one.