When I tell people I work in PR, the common responses are:
‘So, you’re, like, a journalist?’
‘Oh, like Ab Fab?!’
Admittedly, it’s usually my gay friends who make the Absolutely Fabulous reference, and I’m here for it.
But it got me thinking. Do people outside of the PR industry really still think it’s populated by exuberant fashionistas who drink Champagne like fizzy pop?
I suppose it comes down to this: there’s a perception that to work in PR is to be one of life’s extroverts.
Well, I’m living proof of the exact opposite.
Shushing from the rooftops
Though PRs are in the business of relationships – keeping clients happy and building strong bridges with the media – it doesn’t mean you have to be a social butterfly to work in the industry.
Introverts are typically viewed as being shy and reserved people (a wallflower), whose idea of a good time is staying home alone with a good book.
Thankfully, Susan Cain’s bestselling book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking helped to shift this perception massively.
Yes, introverts might be less outgoing, but they are no less powerful when it comes to communicating how they think and feel.
Cain describes introverts as:
- preferring more minimally stimulating environments
- tending to listen more than speaking
- being less tolerant of risk
- valuing a smaller number of close relationships over many casual ones
- having a desire for their work to be meaningful
- recharging after social situations, not getting energy from them.
Obviously, no one is wholly introverted or extroverted, but if you see yourself in these qualities, you’ll be leaning more towards the former.
Making noise, quietly
Now, when it comes to PR – you know, dealing with the public in very public ways – there’s a power in remaining quiet when others make noise; in taking stock of a situation, thinking about things deeply and then deciding how to act.
Communication is fundamentally about listening. As PRs we have to understand our clients’ aims and what they want to achieve, while having a bird’s-eye view of the media landscape they need to impress.
Introverts will thrive on receiving information, truly understanding it and creating meaningful work. They’re fantastic in a crisis: taking a brief and turning it into something with the power to resonate and achieve its intended result.
And when it comes to clients, someone who values creating a smaller number of strong relationships can be invaluable to a PR agency.
Every good PR agency needs a Samantha Jones type to own those high impact networking opportunities and win new business.
Equally, we need quieter leaders who thrive by forging strong teams and working closely together to nail those all-important comms strategies.
Aaron Eastwood, Senior PR manager