Is being a people person enough to qualify you as a PR professional? Sharon Reis, Principal of The Reis Group, highlights the importance of analytical skills and love for brands and news consumption as key assets in a communicators toolbox. Sharon also discusses the need for increased focus on team well-being.
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HOST: DOUG SIMON
GUEST: SHARON REIS
DOUG: What are the skills you need to be an effective PR person? How can you develop them? Can companies help develop them in their employees? Sharon Reis is going to give us the answer to those key questions. We’re going to start. Sharon, you talk about being a people person is not nearly enough to qualify you to be an effective PR professional. What do you mean by that?
SHARON: There are so many other ways to describe why someone’s interested in public relations or why we do PR. So, when I’m in an interview and somebody says “I’m a people person,” sometimes it makes me cringe a little. What about talking about being a problem solver, being research-driven? Being somebody who consumes news? What about being a social media expert or someone who loves brands? I think those are the things, the skill sets that people need to be successful in public relations.
DOUG: Is there a place for people who are personable as long as they have the right kind of skills? Because I’m wondering if I need to be less personable for this conversation.
SHARON: The good news is, if you’ve done any type of personality or work style assessment, it shows that no matter your preference, you can be or do anything that you want to do. So, liking to be around people, being social, being emotionally intelligent, being able to read a room to modify your style, or meet a client or somebody who has a different approach than you, that all works. And that’s a great way to explain that you are a people person, you are emotionally intelligent because that’s important in public relations and in an agency business like my own where we have many clients that we serve.
DOUG: Right, you definitely need to get along with people. So, if there’s a prospective employee coming in to talk to you, what advice do you give them about showing and sharing the skillset they have that an employer like you would find value?
SHARON: I have actually read several stories on this, and there was one in Harvard Business Review recently that talked about sharing values. So, skillsets are something people can build and grow and are really important, but also sharing values, sharing the same meaning and purpose with your organization and with your work, and what you’re going to be doing every day. And one of the things that I suggest that people do is to really look for a manager or mentor in your workplace who you can bond with, who you can help, who can help guide your career path, and help you grow and learn and work together.
DOUG: One of the things I’ve seen, I’d love to get your take on this is, it’s not just the new hire as the mentee and someone more seasoned as a mentor. I learn a lot from my younger employees and try to be open and learn a lot because they have different, less life experiences than I’ve had, but they have different experiences that we can grow from. As someone coming in for an interview, how can they emphasize sort of the different, unique things they’ll bring in because of their perspective, maybe as a Gen Z’er.
SHARON: I think that’s really important because what makes a team better is to have a range of perspectives on it. So, I know when I started my career back in the day, in order to stay on top of the news, we read newspapers. So, we went through each section of the newspaper. And that’s just not the way people consume news these days. So, being on top of the news aggregators, being on top of where people are getting information, and how you can do that to appeal to different audiences. Looking at Gen Z, they consume information and news in a completely different way than many other generations. So, we want to know that. We want to know how to reach people and where they are. So, I think sharing what you know about communications, what you know about writing, what you know about consumer behavior, whether it’s through school, or experience, or your opinions from who you follow on social. I think that’s all really important to bring to the table.
DOUG: In this current environment with the PR industry doing really well, there’s the need to hire talent and help nurture them, keep them, help them grow. What are some things an organization can do or maybe some things you’re doing that are helpful in this area?
SHARON: What we are finding is working now, it’s a tough environment, but we’re finding that personal connection. So, our team members who belong to some lift serves, we’re not putting out the traditional job descriptions. They’re actually putting out their perspective on what it’s like to work at the Reis Group and why someone else may want to join our team. And we’re going back to sharing our values, sharing our passions, and that’s what brings us together. And I know that’s how we built our team. We all care about health and healthcare, but there’s certain ways that we approach work, that we approach our work life balance and working on a team and respecting other’s strengths. So, it comes down to more of that dynamic, that being a people person, being that not understanding interpersonal communication styles, it’s really important.
DOUG: So, I tend to annoy some people with my perspective on work life balance because I disagree with the whole term because it implies that it’s a zero-sum game. If you do more of one, you take away from the other. Personally, I believe you should be excessive in both areas if possible. Align so that they reinforce, probably especially true with the work your team does in healthcare where it’s about helping people feel better. How important is it that your team has a sense of their own well-being in terms of the quality of work that they do?
SHARON: That is something that’s really important to us. For many of our clients, we work in the area of whole person health, and that basically means that health is not just physical. It’s all aspects of your life – your mind, your body, your spirit, your community, it’s physical, it’s emotional. All of those aspects come together to create health and well-being. And we took that approach in health and we applied it to our reviews. So, we have whole person reviews, and we look at your professional life from many different ways and areas that you develop meaning. And we’ve merged whole person health with some research from Harvard Business Review, and we’ve come up with the wheel of whole person success at work or just the whole person well-being at work. And we’re really excited about that, and we’ve done it for two years, and people said, I haven’t done a review like that. Usually, it’s what are you most proud of this year? Where could you improve? But instead, it’s asking you about your values and the wellbeing at work and are you feeling fulfilled. And we have found that it’s been very successful, our retention rates are doing really well, and people are happy.
DOUG: That’s great to have that open level of communication and the trust between employees and others at the organization so they can be open about something like that. I imagine there are some companies where they’d be very hesitant to talk if they’re not feeling fulfilled about the work they’re doing. That’s a tough thing to communicate to someone else. Do you have any final thoughts as we wrap up this conversation?
SHARON: One of the things that I think is most important is focusing on people’s strengths. And we are big believers in strength finders with my team. Finding what people do well and lifting them up, not focusing on weaknesses or where people can do better. I’m not saying we don’t all try to improve, we do, but it’s the idea of building each other up, recognizing and valuing what people bring to the table, focusing on their strengths.
DOUG: Great, well hopefully help people find their strengths with this conversation. Thanks so much for joining us.
SHARON: Okay, thank you for having me.