PR professionals are masters at making their clients shine.
When it comes to branding themselves, though, many PR pros underperform dramatically. Why are we often so bad at tooting our own horns?
Without venturing too deep into psychoanalyzing our industry peers, many professionals, whether they work externally or in-house, seem to suffer a lack of confidence about the unique value that PR can offer in helping a client or employer solve business challenges.
This lack of self-confidence feeds into how they are perceived by the people who hire or employ them, which loops back into the professional insecurity.
Here are four mindsets that PR professionals embrace in perpetuating this self-defeating cycle—along with alternatives that can position them instead as the valuable experts they are:
1. Do you want my advice? Take it. It’s free.
Do lawyers make themselves available to share their thoughts on a legal case, free of charge? Ever had an architect who delivered a blueprint gratis? Probably not. On the other hand, I’d probably go broke if I gave a nickel away for every time a communications consultant doles out free advice over a cup of coffee. Such freebies are often misunderstood as a lead-generating activity, but taking that approach does more harm than good. People tend to devalue things that are free. Still want to grab that coffee with a prospect? Go for it. Just limit the conversation to the services and value you provide. When you deliver value, ask a fair price for your counsel.
2. My clipping book is 40 pages thick.
So you scored 17 online articles? Congratulations, you earned a gold star. Media output is not the accomplishment that top execs care most about. Their priority list includes website traffic and leads generated, reputation improvement and employee awareness gains. PR pros who do not master the language of business results will never be taken seriously by those who make the important decisions. If you lack these core skills, get with the program. Take courses or study on your own to become more fluent in the metrics important to your customers.
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3. It’s not a hard science.
Many communications consultants end a client recommendation with the self-effacing statement, “Well, it’s not a hard science, of course.” Actually, it is. Take the “stealing thunder” theory, which posits that if you break the news about your own crisis, you will be perceived as more credible by your constituents than if another source brought it to light. This theory has been proven through experiments such as the one of Laura Arpan and David Roskos-Ewoldsen. Crisis communications consultants who advise their clients to speak up right away are engaging in a form of science.
4. I am a great copywriter.
Writing skills are important for PR professionals. Just don’t undersell your value by touting your copywriting prowess at the expense of promoting your skills as a communications strategist. Seasoned professionals often do themselves and their peers a disservice when they emphasize their production skills over more important attributes. PR pros should stop selling themselves short and instead focus on the value they offer to help clients achieve strategic business goals.
Jo Detavernier is a partner with Manzer Communications.