Forging Connections: Dr. Candace Steele Flippin Shares Advice for New Pros

March 2021
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As Dr. Candace Steele Flippin sees it, the challenges for the PR profession have never been more significant. 

“Public relations professionals and communicators are unique stewards of our public’s trust,” she told PRSSA members during PRSA ICON 2020 this past fall. “We must accept the terms now, and without fear.”

She has three hopes for students and young professionals as they continue to navigate their careers during the pandemic: 

• Create a beneficial relationship.

• Know that the innate openness of public relations is one of our greatest strengths.

• Be able to serve without weighing in on social issues.

“In your career, make it personal, use the power of your perspective to make the world better and don’t compromise your integrity,” said Flippin, an executive research fellow at the Weatherhead School of Management at Case Western Reserve University. “People want the truth and people want transparency.”

Flippin thinks that PR pros are uniquely positioned to succeed “if we take it upon ourselves to lead in ways that haven’t been requested before.” She also shares concerns that are shaping how our peers are thinking about their careers, bolstered by these statistics:

• 68 percent of Gen Z and millennial workers now want to do more purpose-driven work.

• 37 percent of Gen Z and millennial workers believe their employer is not doing an effective job addressing issues of equity and inclusion.

• 45 percent of Gen Z and millennial workers will “cancel” brands that are not willing to address racial inequality.

Try to meet each opportunity and challenge with poise and professionalism, she said, later noting that she tells new graduates: “Things will always work out.” She reminded the audience to always be candid and thoughtful, and also noted: “Masks matter, facts matter, our planet matters.”

Flippin is proud of the profession “because we are on the forefront of creating this change.” The key to being a great communications leader, she said, is to always be effective in your role and to:

• Make it personal.

• Use the power of your perspective and position to make the world better.

• Don’t compromise your integrity.

“At the end of every business decision is a person. Don’t listen to people say, ‘It’s not personal; it’s just business.’ Everything we do is personal,” she said. “You have influence and power. Small actions have a positive impact on others and, when we’re connected with others, we can have a powerful influence.”

Use the power of your perspective to make the world better, she said. You can take your perspective to bring about awareness and change.

Flippin cautions not to “erode your character and soul by becoming a stranger to yourself,” but to control your own life and march to the beat of your own drum.

“When stakes are high, I won’t silence myself. What will you choose as your integrity promise?” Flippin asked of the audience. “Now, more than ever, it’s a great deal of power. Remember you’re unique and the diversity of your perspective is unique. While instincts are great, facts are also important.” 

Starting Your PR Journey   

By Dr. Candace Steele Flippin

Know that careers are journeys. Setbacks can provide valuable growth and lessons for you. There’s something to be learned at every job, so do your best at each stop. Don’t be discouraged by those who tell you that you cannot achieve your goals.

• Understand that bias exists. You may encounter people who carry biases, but those biases don’t have to prevent you from succeeding if you’re persistent and determined enough.

• Stay positive. Remember that all is not lost if you’re in a less than ideal job now. It’s a waste of time only if you decide it isn’t worth your time. Do your best where you are and keep an open mind as you explore what you want in long-term goals.

• Have a plan. As you traverse your career, it may be helpful to plan for short-term and long-term success. In most cases, it will be up to you to make that plan. Seek help from co-workers, professional organizations, your HR department, your boss or a mentor.

• Be patient with yourself. It is OK if you have not figured everything out yet. Having a plan can be helpful, and asking for advice is a smart move to make. It’s OK to be in transition and keep figuring things out.

• Realize that you don’t have to go it alone. Be open to seeking and accepting help. Having a strong support system makes you more likely to succeed in your career overall. 

• Press send. Reach out to people you respect and ask for their guidance. — Dr. Candace Steele Flippin

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