5 Ways to Own Your Introversion as a PR Pro
By Kaylin R. Staten, APR
“To be a successful public relations practitioner, you have to be extroverted.”
I have heard this sentiment expressed throughout my career. As an individualist who believes everyone has a place at the table, these opinions entered my subconscious as facts and settled there for years. And though I am an individualist and believe that everyone deserves a place at the table, when I started my company, I listened to what others wanted me to do, more than I attended to my own intuition and my firm’s niches.
I’m a natural introvert, so the oft-repeated assumption that PR pros must be extroverted went against my inclinations. As I have grown in my career, I’ve morphed into an ambivert, with equal parts introversion and extroversion. (Live interviews with local TV-news stations and listening to your own voice over and over have a way of boosting you past your comfort zones.)
While you go through the motions of doing your best at your job, you’re doing your target publics, and yourself, a disservice if you’re not remaining true to your authentic self. All of us have an introverted side.
As PR professionals, it’s vital that we engage both of these sides of ourselves, and every segment of the spectrum in between, as we look inward and also communicate to others.
Learning to work in tandem with your own personality and outside of your comfort zones will pay dividends in every facet of your career. Gaining control of your own narrative also builds your overall sense of purpose.
Here are some tips to own the introverted parts of yourself and become a better communicator:
Embrace your own personality.
In public relations, we are often the faces of organizations or causes, so when there is work to do, our senses of self blend into the woodwork. Most communications jobs require us to compartmentalize our feelings, but we shouldn’t be afraid to showcase who we are.
I spent the bulk of my early career trying to mask myself as someone who doesn’t show emotions, even when situations called for showing emotion. Privately, discontent shadowed my every move. But once I finally decided to embrace the attributes within myself that I had perceived as “weird” or “negative,” I became the PR practitioner I was always meant to become.
Blend logic and empathy.
Behind the scenes, we plug in qualitative and quantitative research into our communications plans and messages, but are we listening to our own audiences? Maintaining two-way communication lets us know what our audiences think and feel.
At the same time, being aware of our own emotions lets us aid others through a blend of logic and empathy, while also meeting our organizations’ key performance indicators. The art and science of public relations helps us improve professionally and personally.
Many introverts succumb to perfectionism, a harmful tendency that can lead to mental health issues. Perfectionistic introverts often overthink to the point of obsession. They incessantly blame themselves when they make a mistake, or they take the blame for others. They feel they must work constantly to be successful and they struggle to relax.
If you find yourself struggling with perfectionist tendencies, then working on their root causes can help you prevent the mental health problems they would otherwise cause. Work on one perfectionistic behavior you would like to change first, which usually presents itself as an unhealthy high standard. Set a goal and a time frame to reduce that behavior.
Network your own way.
Networking with other people is important for communicators, but it can be difficult for introverts. And while you might dread in-person conferences and small talk, there are ways to still be yourself in such situations.
At conferences, try to meet at least five new people and collect their business cards. Find at least one takeaway from each conversation that will add value to your career endeavors or your company’s mission. Remember to be true to yourself. Don’t try to compete with the most extroverted (or introverted) people in the room. By being yourself, you will attract more connections that are genuine. Of course, LinkedIn and other virtual platforms are also instrumental for networking and can be part of an introverted communications professional’s toolkit.
Take time to recharge.
Introverts typically recharge by giving themselves a break from overstimulation, while extroverts need constant human connection to feel content. Regardless of your personality type, taking time to recharge lets you be your best self.
Setting aside a few minutes or a day for yourself will give you the chance to ruminate on your work and personal tasks at hand. Read the book that’s been collecting dust on your shelf. Have a meaningful conversation with a loved one. Binge-watch your favorite TV shows or movies. Taking time to relax will help you succeed when you return to the grind.
photo credit: francesco carta fotografo