Today’s guest post is by Peppercommer Mandy Roth.
It’s true: Public Relations Practitioner did not appear on the list of “100 Most Badass Professions of 2013.” For one thing, the occupation didn’t stand a chance considering said list does not exist—I made it up. If such a survey were published, one can assume that CIA operative would definitely be a contender for the top spot (perhaps along with royal baby). And I’d argue that we communication professionals have more in common with undercover agents than meets the eye. As the daughter of a former CIA operative, I’d like to share my impressions of key traits that apply to both professions, suggesting that we PR pros are bolder and more intrepid than we may appear.
1. Our effectiveness is often gauged by our gadgets.
Without a collection of sophisticated gadgets, James Bond would have no more street cred than Encyclopedia Brown. Of course, few of us PR types get to wear a Rolex with a homing beacon or drive an Aston Martin that emits a smoke screen. But, just like Bond’s gadget-guru “Q,” we have to continually update and customize our toolbox to remain competitive.
In today’s increasingly connected, globalized world, the communication toolkit is more extensive than ever. For example, so as not to let the conversation of today’s consumers run amok on the web, it is vital that professional communicators stay on top of social media platforms. This doesn’t mean taking an hour out of your Tuesday to learn the logistics of Twitter; it means constantly seeking new ways to utilize existing platforms to drive user engagement and achieve client goals.
2. To do our jobs well, we must keep our cool—especially in high-pressure situations.
Maxwell Smart might’ve shriveled under pressure, but a well-seasoned agent wouldn’t dare. Keeping your cool is the name of the game, and is often what separates the pros from the no-gos.
PR practitioners are held to a similar standard. We generally have better luck in pitching the media when we remain low-key and relaxed. And while it may be frustrating when a client shuns our brilliant ideas or declines to participate in an incredible media opportunity, there’s no sense in getting worked up. We must keep calm and carry on.
3. An invisible hand is often credited for our hard work.
In the client-oriented business of PR, our work takes place behind the scenes. Once again, who would understand the low profile nature of our profession better than undercover agents, who spend their lives in the shadows, disdaining the individual limelight?
I’d argue that we should embrace our hidden hand as it encourages modesty, the setting aside of egos, and a focus on delivering results. To quote Ronald Reagan, “there is no limit to the amount of good you can do if you don’t care who gets the credit.”
4. We are students of human behavior.
I have gleaned from observing my dad over the years that intelligence operatives are—by nature, training and necessity—students of human behavior. They are constantly evaluating people’s actions and apparent motives to draw accurate conclusions (and maybe even save the world).
PR professionals tend to deal less frequently with life-or-death situations, but to secure any real results for our clients we are required to understand the audience. Here at Peppercomm, we function under a process: listen, engage, repeat. Without listening, or gathering insights from the behavior and voices of the given audience, we are in no place to engage or repeat. Observation is a huge part of a business that cannot afford to be neglected.
So you see, we PR folks ought to be proud of our alluring industry, which will be sure to claim a spot on the illegitimate “100 Most Badass Professions of 2014” list (mostly because I happen to have a connection to its author). In closing, I should clarify that while I do believe we have much in common with our clandestine friends, there is at least one major difference between us: we PR practitioners will gladly accept any martini at face value, regardless of whether it was shaken or stirred.