Young public relations executives frequently talk about their frustration with clients and colleagues who treat them as a kid sister or brother, son or daughter, or possible date, rather than as an associate with major responsibilities.
Highly capable young professionals are often given tremendous responsibility to help agencies achieve client objectives in this lightning-fast industry. Managing the pressure and demands of associates and clients can be overwhelming for even the most seasoned professional.
For a young professional, such pressures are often paired with the challenge of not being taken seriously as an intelligent and responsible member of the team.
Here are 10 ways to gain the respect and attention of even the most challenging clients and colleagues:
Dress like an adult.
Yes, you might be broke, but you can still find affordable well-fitting suits and classic styles rather than the latest trends. Understand your client’s culture, and dress the way they do, even if your agency environment is casual. This goes for hair and makeup, too.
Spend a little extra time to ensure your appearance is neat and professional. Check out how CEOs and department heads dress, and work to emulate those whose style you admire.
Keep casual banter to a minimum.
Clients and colleagues may wish to engage you in gossip, jokes, and workplace humor; however, maintaining a more serious demeanor—that is, avoiding the giggles—will earn you respect.
Be pleasant to colleagues and clients, but your goal should be to earn their respect, not friendship. Keeping the line clear will help you adjust your personality and behavior accordingly.
Work on your tone and language.
Do you speak too softly? Do you have a high-pitched voice? Do you have Snooki’s “Jersey Shore” accent? Do you overuse “like,” “you know,” “random,” “whatever”?
You may not be aware of speech patterns or language errors that detract from your professionalism. Use strong action words rather than vague terms. For instance, don’t say, “I think this might be a good idea.” Instead, say, “This idea will have an immediate impact on your site traffic.”
Have a trusted friend help you identify unnecessary or overused words that pop up in your everyday conversations, and work to replace them with words that will encourage your clients to listen.
Avoid becoming an office cliché.
Don’t drink too much at office functions. Don’t talk about your personal life. Don’t date colleagues or clients. Keep your desk area tidy and organized. Limit social media surfing to work-related business. Don’t text while at work. Clean up social media content and privacy settings. Always be on time, and don’t ever cry at work.
Arm yourself with knowledge.
Take time to understand your clients, their business and communication objectives, and their target audiences. Read industry and business publications; stay abreast of current events (not just pop culture). By consuming a variety of information sources, you’ll find you can contribute to conversations with confidence.
Don’t always say yes.
Ask questions, and challenge client thinking. When your client demands a cover story in The Wall Street Journal, ask questions: What is the purpose of this coverage? How much access to the organization and its executives are they willing to give? Do they understand the story must be an exclusive? Which of their target audiences do they want to reach via this outlet?
Be prepared to give a sound rationale regarding how you might help the clients achieve their goals.
Showcase your value and proactivity.
Anticipate clients’ expectations and issues. Be ready with a few scenarios to better manage expectations and to ensure resources are allocated accordingly.
If you can justify why and how your idea will help benefit your client, be sure to prepare and present your proposal or recommendation.
Don’t always ask for permission to pursue an initiative or idea. Taking calculated and confident risks is a trait of any great leader.
Be your own public relations agent.
Don’t assume your bosses and clients know you are driving serious business results. Communicate your successes. Send a quick email—to bosses and clients alike—when you surpass project goals.
Don’t’ be afraid to share the accolades.
Publicly congratulating (in writing) a client or colleague on a job well done builds good will and shows your team-building and leadership abilities.
Embrace your youth as an asset, and proudly showcase your energy, ideas, and abilities as a professional. Display your poise, intelligence, confidence, and work ethic, and you will earn respect. You must act like a leader to become a leader.
Lorra M. Brown is an assistant professor of public relations/professional communication at William Paterson University in Wayne, N.J. Visit her blog www.lorrabrown.com, or follow her on Twitter: @lorrabrownPR.