(credit Georgia State University)
A referral is a gift and a terrific opportunity to build your reputation.
As a PR manager you have industry knowledge, high skill levels and a circle of contacts. That’s why sometimes people approach you for a referral to someone in your network. They want your help in contacting an individual who can help them with career advice, an interview, information or with thoughts on a business idea.
Referrals are gifts
When you give a referral you are giving a gift to the person seeking your help by laying open your networks for their benefit. And like other forms of gift-giving a referral has a distinct etiquette – which when followed – can enhance your professional standing by:
- Demonstrating your industry insights and connections.
(credit Georgia State University)
Referrals are terrific tools for PR professionals. Recently a colleague landed a story by asking for a referral to a newspaper editor and a communications start-up is growing by asking others for help.
Talk about referrals often turns to sales, marketing and business development. Today I’m talking about personal referrals where either you ask for help or set out to help others. That can be to source information, get an interview, land a job or get buy-in for a project. There is art and etiquette to referrals which can help you succeed, or if neglected burn your bridges.
Image: Rusty Crawshaw
PR executives may not be responsible for how other leaders perform but we should call out poor leadership, agitate for leader development and model behaviours others can follow.
Biggest ever survey
Last week the Melbourne-based Centre for Workplace Leadership launched the Study of Australian Leadership, the largest ever survey of its kind in Australia.
The Study looked at the state of leadership and management across the economy. And although it has crucial, nationwide implications it received scant attention probably because the Federal Election is absorbing all attention.
Almost 8,000 people in 2,703 organisations and 2,561 workplaces took part in five surveys including CEOs, HR specialists, midlevel managers, front line leaders and employees.
Leaders need to be detached. Which means getting off the dance floor and going to the balcony.
There is a strong correlation between asking for feedback and the overall effectiveness of leaders. But can you ask for feedback without risking your authority?
Sensitive to criticism?
At times I admit to having being sensitive when people critiqued my PR efforts. You may have experienced something similar. Invariably we try our best so when we do fall short, it can be uncomfortable when someone highlights our failures. Yet when people offer feedback it’s a terrific opportunity to improve performance.
PR managers may have substantial authority but they are only human.
Delegation builds better workplaces. Don’t believe me? Walk into a place where there’s frustrated staff, an uncertain atmosphere and low productivity and most likely you’ll find a boss making every decision, having all the ideas and insisting people work within strict limits.
Delegating is crucial for government, agency and not for profit PR leaders whether they manage small teams or large outfits.
PR teams routinely juggle competing deadlines and multiple projects. That’s true for other disciplines but uncertainty and crisis are never far away from the PR professional. Plus there’s always a campaign in play, about to start or wrapping up.
When PR leaders start saying ‘we tried that and it didn’t work’ they become the barrier to innovation.
The longer you lead a communications team the danger grows that you default automatically to what’s worked in the past. Of course the past is where your successes lie but it becomes a problem when it stifles the creativity of your staff and fails you for the future.
That’s why good PR leaders are always thought leaders with the habit of spotting the trends likely to impact their organisations, teams, even their own careers.
Leaders have little time so if you’re just surviving the working week how do you find space to think beyond your inbox?
Image: Rusty Crawshaw
A PR thought leader must be part explorer, advocate and activist – a curious mix that can be a terrific boost to your career.
One of the skills you – the leader – need is the ability to spot trends likely to affect your organisation and team. This applies to all leaders but specially to PR leaders.
Communications, communities and institutions are changing at lighting speed and unless we anticipate the future we can easily find ourselves marooned in present practice with outdated skills and talking to audiences that have long moved on.
Feeling the future
Thought leadership is about preparing your career, your team and your organisation for the future.
Last week I asked 40 communicators to nominate a communicator-leader they admired. The room feel silent and only two people raised their hands. I was stunned. Surely there must be more because PR specialists have leadership skills in profusion.
Recently I presented on the topic of leadership to Australian Government communicators in Canberra. Which got me thinking how PR people in government and business rank when they get the chance to lead. Are PR professionals superior, average or below par when it comes to leading teams and organisations?
Research on the subject of PR leadership is thin. There’s been some American research but scant Australian study.
In 1947 Australia’s banks launched a PR campaign against Prime Minister Ben Chifley.
This article first appeared in the Canberra Times, The Age and the Sydney Morning Herald.
You can almost hear the ghost of Prime Minister Ben Chifley applauding Bill Shorten’s calls for a Royal Commission into Australian banking.
Yet while Chifley might approve Shorten’s efforts he would probably think they do not go far enough. In 1947 Chifley, the train driver turned politician, led a Labor Government that legislated to nationalise Australia’s banks. In doing he triggered one of the largest public relations campaigns in Australian history, one that finally led to the defeat of his Government.
PR leaders need time to think but it takes terrific self discipline to deliberately isolate your brain, silence your phone and unplug from the digital world.
Shortly I’ll be speaking at a Canberra conference on PR leadership and one point I’ll be making is leaders are always busy because there is no such thing as a lazy leader.
As the team leader you may not be the smartest person in your organisation. You may not be the best qualified. You may not be the most skillful nor have the strongest influence. But you have one thing you control completely – your work ethic.