Navigating egos in the world of PR

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First published on http://www.mediaupdate.co.za in July 2015

Most people deal with egos in the workplace. When it comes to PR it’s not just colleagues’ egos that need to be considered but the clients’ too. 

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By Remy Raitt

Tom Woolf of the PRagmatist says
 the trick is to never let egos get in the way of judgment. Make sound business decisions first, and deal with bruising later. Public relations, says Woolf, needs to fall somewhere short of the “customer is always right” and lean more towards the thinking that “the customer is never completely wrong”.

Massage, don’t massacre clients’ egos

Out right lying to or falsely agreeing with your client is never a good idea. And if the PR practitioner is doing it to keep the peace, problems are likely to arise. The PR practitioner has been hired for a reason, so, if the client starts suggesting tactics that are doomed to fail, certain subtle steps can be taken.

“With clients, especially if a client has a specific idea you know won’t work, never say ‘no’, rather ask lots of questions and help the client realise on their own why it won’t work,” says Megann Outram, regional manager of Atmosphere PR. “Through these questions you will both fully begin to understand what needs to be done and then you can approach things in a different way.”

Sheila Afari of Sheila Afari PR agrees. “If the client later realises they should have done things as advised by their PR practitioner, they will value their PR practitioner more than if the PR practitioner had gone behind their backs.”

“A client and a PR practitioner operate in a relationship and in any relationship mutual respect is needed,” says Afari. “They are separate entities and will therefore have different opinions and views, but you need to find a way to make the relationship work through communication and remember the objectives.”

Question everything

Inflated egos don’t only arise with clients. Colleagues also often jostle for gold stars. Outram says brainstorming sessions with colleagues should not be seen as a chance to one up each other. “It’s about collaboration and making sure you aren’t breaking down an individual. It’s important to remember that no ideas are sacred, every idea can be improved upon.”

Being flexible opens up new ideas and possible solutions. Outram says PR teams need to work together to tear things apart and then put them back together. “It should never be about an individual hero,” she says.

Gabbi Rego, the director of urban espresso says when it comes to interpersonal relationships picking your battles is a vital skill. “There are so many small things that you can let go, despite the fact it may hurt your professional pride, if it doesn’t’ compromise your professional integrity.”

Be outcomes orientated

Instead of focusing on egos Outram says things should always be brought back to the objective. “You are not doing things for creativity’s sake, but rather for delivering on the business objectives of your client.” The PR practitioner’s modus operandi should always be how to garner the best possible publicity for their client.

Be professional

If a PR professional lets their ego get in the way of their work, this may create hostile relationships. Woolf recommends, even when the going gets tough and frustration levels rise, to keep cool. “Maintain your professionalism and always give your best counsel, but be prepared to compromise when the need arises. The best public relations professionals are excellent diplomats, and in the end, you have to remember that you are just the messenger.”

How do you deal with egos in your workplace? Tell us in the comment section below.

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