Since the publication of Susan Cain’s 2012 bestselling book, “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking
,” introverts have become downright popular.
People who used to be
stereotyped as quintessential shy, socially awkward personality types have
now become a force to be reckoned with, albeit in their quieter, less
Thousands of articles have been written over the past few years extolling
the traits and benefits of introversion, explaining how the more solitary
and reflective types among us (myself included) can thrive in
school settings, as parents and
dating. (If you’re curious, BuzzFeed has more than a dozen quizzes available to
just how introverted you might be.)
Who are the introverts? Cain defines them as people having a preference for
“a quiet, more minimally stimulating environment.” They typically listen
more often than they speak and are generally less tolerant of risk. Small
talk can be a nightmare for many introverts because it lacks depth or any
real connection. Introverts value having a smaller number of close
relationships over many casual ones. Finally, they want their work to be
So, in a field such as public relations—one that, by definition, relates to the public—is there room for the introverted
It’s easier to imagine a classic extrovert—with a
naturally outgoing and social personality—in a PR role. They are the folks who typically have no issues working a crowded
room or trade show booth, making cold calls to strangers and easily
building rapport on behalf of their clients. Make no mistake—extroverts are a crucial part of a PR team. However, I would argue there are
few career choices better suited to an introvert than public
See how these common introvert traits can be
applied to PR:
Listening and thinking before you speak.
Journalists work under tight deadlines and need answers and information
quickly. That’s the nature of our business. But all too often people
prioritize reacting quickly, or loudly, or first, rather than reacting thoughtfully. Speaking and working too fast is how
careless mistakes are made, and in PR those mistakes can end up on the
evening news. Consider that in the vast, vast majority of situations, one
should always take time to pause and think critically.
Embracing the calm.
This is key in crisis situations or when patience is running thin. The last
thing a stressful situation needs is a sense of panic and anxiety. Because many introverts are more subdued and less reactive, they can bring a sense
of calm to a crisis.
Many years ago during a performance review a manager
described me as “the office hostage negotiator” because I was able to
defuse tense or challenging situations and keep my teams focused on their
immediate priorities rather than panicking and letting a crisis situation
spin out of control. It’s only recently I realized that this accolade was
due largely to my being an introvert.
Choosing quality over quantity.
One of the worst practices in PR is the “spray and pray” mentality toward
media outreach. This is when an organization blasts out a press release or
email pitch to the widest variety of media possible, hoping that someone, anyone, will bite and cover its news. I suppose the logic
here is that the more people your message reaches, the better—but are those
people actually reading your news? Do they care at all?
Introverts tend to
prefer having close relationships with a few people rather than dozens and
dozens of casual connections. I would argue that having close, long-term
relationships with your clients, your news sources and your influencers is
vastly more effective than casually “pinging” thousands of contacts every
[RELATED: Find out how to make meaningful connections with your customers and the news media at the Practical PR Summit.]
For introverts, preparation is everything. It ensures we’re able to speak
thoughtfully and offer something meaningful to the dialogue.
preparation is also crucial—it’s the main differentiator that ensures a
client nails an important interview or speech, and that your account teams
are well informed about activities, budgets and priorities. I personally
find speaking off the cuff to be tremendously stressful because it means I
often don’t have time to adequately research what I’m saying, prepare my
key points and think carefully about my argument.
Explore potential issues
and questions in advance to ensure you have the right materials and
resources for the task at hand. The more prepared you and your client are,
the stronger the end result will be.
Being an introvert doesn’t mean you’re shy. Or socially awkward. Or an
asocial hermit. But it does mean that you value time alone to regroup and
re-energize. It also means that you more often listen before speaking,
particularly in a large or unfamiliar setting. This thoughtful, arguably
more personal approach will serve introverts well in an industry like
public relations—and make them a valuable part of any PR team.
Are you an introvert working in PR? What do you like most (and least!)
about it? What are your biggest challenges?
Beth Mayer is
a technology PR and strategic communications pro at
Communiqué PR. A
version of this story originally appeared on
the agency’s blog.