There’s a stereotype of public relations people that’s often portrayed in movies and media: A power suit-wearing, talkative socialite with boundless energy who knows how to get a story out quickly and effectively.
While we’d all love for this to be true, it’s not realistic. PR people come in all types, and there isn’t one standard personality or image that is best for success in this business.
However, the one caveat is that you need to be a “people person.” You need to be able to work with all different types of people and constantly shift your focus from one to the next, all while keeping a smile on your face and a great attitude. In other words, it takes a TON of energy and some social grace.
This can be hard for those who consider themselves introverts. Being an introvert means that activities involving interacting with people can be super draining and difficult to get through. You may need time to yourself to recharge after a lot of social activity, while an extrovert may be fueled by social situations and have no limits.
This is not to be confused with the shy to outgoing spectrum, which measures the level at which you are comfortable in social situations. You can, in fact, be an outgoing introvert, or a shy extrovert. And whatever combination you are, you can be successful in PR.
For all you shy and/or introverted people, here are some tips to be more of a people person:
Dress with confidence
It sounds cliche but if you’re looking sharp, you’re more likely to feel sharp. There’s actually a psychological principle that backs this up. Others will pick up on the confidence you’re exuding and, generally speaking, view you more favorably. In turn, it may help mitigate some of the perceived “judgement” from your peers. Although, let’s face it, most of that pressure is coming from our own selves and our own worries. In any case, dress well to feel well to, hopefully, perform well.
Bring a Buddy
Introverts often do better in one-on-one situations, especially with someone they don’t have to try as hard around. Similarly, shy people need to feel comfortable to be able to connect to others in a social situation. Consider bringing with you to the next event that you’re attending someone with whom you’re already comfortable. Especially consider someone who may be more of an outgoing, extroverted person than you are. They can stick by your side and help carry the conversation, so you’re not using up every ounce of energy you have trying to avoid awkward silences.
Obviously, bringing a friend or coworker isn’t feasible in every situation – sometimes you’ll have to go out there on your own. Before you head to an event where “shmoozing” is inevitable, such as a networking event, brainstorm topics of conversation as well as your answers to basic questions. Additionally, bring an agenda to every meeting, marked up with any notes you need to feel confident answering any questions on the spot. Don’t make yourself work hard on every interaction or you’ll only compound the “draining” effect.
Get extra sleep before a big meeting
This is another one that is somewhat obvious but very important to mention anyway. If you anticipate having to expend a lot of energy leading a meeting, giving a presentation or the like, make sure you give yourself the necessary time to refuel the night before, so you can be ready for the day ahead. Plus, the more rested you feel, the more alert you’ll feel, which can give you more confidence that you’ll perform at your best.
PR people come in all types, and there isn’t one standard personality or image that is best for success in this business.
Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there
As I mentioned before, for people with social anxieties, a lot of the pressure comes from themselves because they’re worried about looking silly or saying the wrong thing. Well, the solution is simple: Stop worrying so much about what others think! If you have a great idea for a pitch, share it. If a client seems unsure how to proceed with a campaign, give them your two cents. If a colleague is going about a project incorrectly, help them learn a better way. Most of the time, people really appreciate collaboration and enthusiasm when working with others. Very few times will they shoot you down or mock your idea. You just need to get out of your own head.
Fake it til you make it
This is probably the best advice I can give. So you’re not the epitome of social grace or you’re not someone who thrives in social situations – that’s ok! But don’t let it stop you from being successful. Enter every meeting, every event, every press conference with a smile and as much confidence as you can muster, and you just might find yourself thriving after all.
In PR, much of the progression is natural. You start as a junior employee helping with the day-to-day on accounts and then you work your way up to joining client meetings. Then eventually you may become an account lead and manage your own team, and so on.
I don’t think anyone’s expected to show up their first day on the job and jump right into leading meetings and responding to clients. Just like in most careers, you’ll grow as a leader as you continue to gain more experience. In the process, you may even find that your needle on the introvert-extrovert and shy-outgoing meters will shift. But if you still need to crawl home after a long day with people and curl up alone in bed like a burrito, that’s ok too.