Quiet Down, PR People

SONY DSCPR professionals are often stereotyped as extroverted Energizer bunnies. But like all stereotypes, that depiction is true only some percent of the time.

Yet given the industry’s emphasis on promotion, communication and high energy, some more introverted PR practitioners can feel overlooked or undervalued.

In her bestseller, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, Susan Cain argues that Americans’ cultural affinity for extroversion shortchanges not only individuals, but society. After reading it this week, here’s my take on the implications for public relations when we prize extroversion over introversion.

While engaging with people is critical in public relations, so is reflective time for creativity.  You can’t concept a sensational campaign or write winning pitches when you’re constantly bombarded by colleagues bent on brainstorming collaboratively. Group discussion can be useful, Cain writes, as long as it’s accompanied by solitary periods to muse, produce and refine.

While the prevailing American narrative prizes extroversion, psychologists maintain that one-third to one-half of people are introverts. That’s crucial data to consider when crafting brand images and ad campaigns. How many television and Internet ads are in-your-face overwhelming? How much of your audience might you miss by neglecting the needs of introverts? International brands, take note: although current science regards the majority of extroversion and introversion to be biologically based, studies also show that nationality often plays a part.

When it comes to media relations, PR professionals should know that their pitches are (gasp!) subject to internal newsroom politics. As a reporter for many years,  I always felt uncomfortable with newsroom culture, which prizes endless self-promotion. It often seemed the reporters who spent more time talking up their work than actually doing it got better play for their stories and were more quickly promoted.

Cain writes that our societal tendency toward self-promotion coincided with the American evolution from a Culture of Character to a Culture of Personality around the turn of the twentieth century. The advertising industry, she said, shifted from “straightforward product announcements” to “advice on self-presentation.” I don’t think I’m an outlier when I say the Internet has accelerated those trends. In fact, one of my University of Oregon students’ main assignments is a personal social media plan for self-branding.

In a week, my students will reflect on those plans and how they played out over the term. I’ll be interested to see how they resolved one of the key struggles: negotiating the personal and the professional – or their public and the private selves –  as they transition from student to graduate.

Cain’s book also contains a lot of tips for managing one’s workplace and career based on personality.
Not sure if you’re an extrovert or introvert? Take this quiz. Now, how might you change your approach to PR?

And in honor of Quiet, let’s kickoff the final InsPiRation of the winter term with an article about how one company bolstered its brand by providing quiet for creativity:

Twitter… branding… legacy media…
Amtrak Scores Social Media Coup With ‘Writer Residencies’ (Digiday)
Stodgy Amtrak becomes cool by promoting legacy media with social media. It’s too delicious.

Social media & personal brand & career…
What Would Jane Austen Do? A Guide to Social Media Etiquette (Ragan’s PR Daily)
A literary look at how not to behave on social media. What’s your biggest social media pet peeve?

Fashion & crisis communications
Lululemon Bans Customers from Reselling Yoga Pants Online (YogaDork)
The lead says it all: “From the “What were you thinking?” files, which Lululemon pretty much owns nowadays, we have yet another oops-y daisy from the mega yoga clothing retailer.” It makes me wonder, could Lululemon’s PR gaffes actually be their strategy? Does their behavior play into their aspirational, exclusive brand or hurt it?

Technology/social media & society…
Big Data on Campus (Newsweek)
LinkedIn plans to become a data-driven college advisor. Would you have picked UO based on the recommendation of a social media site? Should high school seniors – and their parents – make such serious decisions in this way?

Crisis communications…
Utah School District Discards Lunches, Considers $50K PR Spend (PR Newser)
Wow. How would you advise this school district? (Bonus: you might earn $49,999).

Advertising… career… athletics…music…
Touching the Culture: UO Alumni Create An Ad Campaign With National Buzz (www.uoregon.edu)
A neat story about recent SOJC grads earning national attention for their Beats by Dre headphones ad campaign. What insights about careers did you glean from their story?

Writing & self-editing…
How To Write Well: 10 Essential Self-Editing Tips (writetodone.com)
See, I haven’t been making this up.  What strategy has been most helpful to you in your self-editing? What tip will you try next?

Corporate social responsibility & investor relations…
Tim Cook to Climate Change Deniers: Get Out of Apple Stock (Mashable)
Apple CEO says environmentalism is good for business, but some investors disagree. He says it’s the right thing to do anyway. Will it help or hurt Apple stock?

Career… Olympics…
3 Lessons From the 2014 Winter Olympics to Boost Your Job Search (macslist.org)
Not everyone can compete in the Olympics, but we all can approach our careers like Olympians. What unique skills do you want to share with future employers? Does your personal social media plan reinforce that image?

Corporate social responsibility?
Is Google Making the Digital Divide Worse? (Newsweek)
Google says it’s expanding Internet access through its corporate social responsibility programs, but is it really?

Photo courtesy of mugfaker (Flickr Creative Commons)

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  1. Whither InsPiRation? | prminders - April 19, 2014

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