Be Remarkable is a campaign I started in November last year when I celebrated 10 years in business. Being remarkable is about believing in yourself.
Over the last week, I’ve had conversations with various people about saying ‘no’ and with peers on my recent trip to London, about being the strategic advisor. We’re doing a lot of talking about this in PR just now. My question is though, how can you be the strategic advisor if you can’t challenge the client?
Saying no is something which everyone who commented on my LinkedIn post, said they have struggled with, but recognise they need to do more often. I recently sent some lines to PRMoment for a piece it is doing around saying ‘no’ (post out later this week). But being braver is a much bigger concept.
Confidence through learning and development
When I say being brave, I mean have more confidence. Too frequently, I see content about PR having a confidence issue, but actually, the confidence comes from those who practice it. We are what people perceive public relations to be.
Over the last ten years of running Aura, I have built my confidence through two ways. 1. Experience and 2. Professional Development.
Confidence comes from knowing your stuff. It comes from being able to support rationale and also using experience to determine the best approach.
The challenge about proving our worth can’t be fixed by the CIPR or PRCA alone and neither can ‘owning’ more of the PR, marketing, digital and comms budget.
Yes, industry bodies can help by providing the right learning opportunities and best practice guidance and by demonstrating what public relations is and does more widely, but ultimately, it’s the practitioners who need to learn and prove that they have the right skills, knowledge and experience to be valuable to an organisation.
It’s the practitioners who do the work and practitioners who have to evaluate success, whether you’re a consultant like me, an agency or work in-house.
Using data to demonstrate rationale
Being brave means you need to be confident. Being confident will only come if you truly know you can offer the best advice as a strategic advisor. Learning, listening and adapting is essential. In the last 10 years I’ve been learning a lot about data and analytics. When I organised the CIPR Scotland conference as Chair, almost eight years ago, I was most excited to invite Andrew Smith to talk about using Google Analytics. Mind. Blown! From there, I’ve been hooked on using insight, which comes from data (in many forms), to develop robust and informed strategies.
Some clients don’t understand the need to go to such lengths, or even perceived ‘wasted time’, because they are used to receiving purely tactical proposals. Once they understand how my proposals are developed, they can then see the rationale behind the proposal and also how it can be measured.
I’ve been more brave recently, saying no to work I don’t believe it right for me. Saying no when I don’t trust or believe in the product/service. This has left me to open to more work I can take on which is right for me, will value my strategic approach and will ultimately help the organisation progress. But if I didn’t have confidence in my worth, I wouldn’t have been able to say no.
Equally, saying no to a client about something, shouldn’t be taken (or indeed given) as a negative. Kate McCheyne (see my LinkedIn post comments) said she always tries to give a ‘here’s why’, and that’s exactly the right approach. Public relations professionals are problem solvers, we should always be going to the client with a better approach if we don’t agree with them. THAT’S proving our value.
We’re actually a clever bunch
Public relations practitioners are clever. We’re curious. We want to solve problems. We need to have more confidence in ourselves and we need to assert that. We are one of, if not the only function within an organisation which has a 360 degree view, across all stakeholders. We have to know SO much about industries, business, trends, risks and much more, never mind keeping up with our own industry learning. We have to keep many plates spinning, whilst working to deadlines and we produce some really amazing work.
Build your confidence – make investing in yourself a priority. If we believe and get out our own way, you can be remarkable!
If I may, a quick plug for #PRFest. A two-day practical learning festival of public relations, which is my way of helping senior PR and communication professionals keep up-to-date with trends, skills and industry developments. Early-bird tickets (from £99) are limited and finish next Tuesday (26th February). Click here to find out more and secure your place.