I spent a good part of last week in Orlando at the Florida Public Relations Association (FPRA) Annual Conference. After my session concluded, there was one question, which stood out in my mind. I was so pleased to have a young professional approach me to ask, “How do you get ahead in public relations and in business?
Answering this question is a way to think about where you are going professionally and how to propel yourself forward in your career. Here are the tips and best practices that I shared:
- Never Let Them See You Sweat. Whether you’re in PR or any industry, you will spend a great deal of your time in situations that are unpredictable, tense and require critical thinking. In many cases, you’ll need to make decisions with lightning speed; ones that will affect a business and its employees, customers, partners, suppliers, etc. As a professional, you have to always bring your “A” game and it doesn’t matter if there’s tension around you. It also doesn’t matter if people are impatient because there’s a negative situation brewing. You always have to take a calm and clear-headed approach. Your job is to step back, think, connect the dots quickly, and give good advice and guidance. You can’t be nervous, flustered, anxious, or show any signs that the situation at hand is rattling or unnerving to you. If you can keep it under control and maintain your calm during uncertain times, then experiencing daily issues that arise will certainly be easier to handle. The key is a calm and laser focused presence during every type of situation, from the good and the bad to the really ugly.
- Listening for Better Responses. They say communications professionals love to talk. Here’s a tip … don’t talk too much. Think about how much you need to listen. Letting others speak freely around you will help you to gather valuable information and insights. Taking new information into consideration before you speak will make you appear more knowledgeable and give you a sharper plan moving forward. As a professional, sometimes it’s difficult not to jump into the discussion right away and to offer your comments and feedback immediately. You’re taught early on to be passionate and to share your ideas, and that no question is ever stupid. However, it’s more advantageous in different types of situations to step back, and let others offer really good information. As a result, you’ll formulate smarter responses and stand out in the crowd.
- Resist the Temptation to Apologize. Just recently Pantene came out with a campaign called #ShineStrong. The campaign focused on how women will say they are sorry far too often and that it’s not necessary, especially when they are making valuable contributions. You may think this is a tip just for women, but it’s really for anyone in business to be strong in their convictions. Whether you are male or female in business there is, of course, a time and a place for accountability and a sincere apology may be necessary. However, in your daily dealings with colleagues and peers be strong and confident in your actions. There is no need to apologize for giving good information or for taking a contrarian view to an argument. When you play devil’s advocate, it’s a part of your job, which makes others consider different perspectives. So, no apology is necessary for doing your job, and / or shedding light in ways that people may not necessarily see.
- Command the Room. Don’t just enter into the room; you need to command the room. There’s a lot that goes into making your presence known; from standing tall with great posture and the tone of your voice when you greet someone, right down to the clothes that you’re wearing. Now, this doesn’t mean you need to run out and spend thousands of dollars on fancy suits. But, what it does mean is that you have to show you care from your appearance to how you act. When you take the time to care about your presence, you come across as someone who is polished and keenly interested in serious discussions. Even the strength of your handshake and how you make eye contact will let people know that you mean business. The way you come across with your first impression will help to open doors and lead to more successful interactions.
- Align Yourself With the Smartest People. You’ve heard the saying and it’s true, you should not be the smartest person in the room, or in the company. Relationships are at the heart of everything you do. When you focus on relationships with people who have a lot to offer, perhaps this could be greater knowledge, insights, motivation and enthusiasm then together you have the potential for synergy and incredible learning potential.
Answering the question, “How do I get ahead in PR or in business?” is a way to self-reflect and challenge yourself to really think about your best practices moving forward. However, you can’t always do this alone. It’s really important to have friends, mentors, and/or sponsors who are in your inner circle of trust and who are willing to give you critical feedback on the points mentioned above.
How will you move forward in your career, get ahead and make a difference in business?