Introverted? You can still succeed in PR
You don’t have to love the spotlight to have a great comms career.
Many assume the stereotypical PR person is outgoing, social and on their third cup of coffee by opening bell. While that may be the case for many PR folks, there’s a hidden group out there just as hungry, thoughtful and intelligent, but a little more reserved and cautious before speaking up.
As someone who has been called an ambivert, here are some tips that I’ve learned over the past year that have helped me stand out without having to be the loudest one in the room.
1. Come with questions.
Take the “pressure” off yourself and write down questions before interacting with a client or teammate. Whether it’s clarification on strategy, a thought leadership angle or the logistics of an announcement, preparing is crucial, especially for introverts who may get nervous responding on the spot. By turning your thoughts into questions, you can engage and demonstrate proactivity without standing on a soapbox.
2. Speak through sharing articles.
Along with results, clients grade PR pros on expertise and industry knowledge. We’re the ear to the ground that they don’t have time for. Sharing relevant articles, whether a competitor announcement or thought leadership piece, shows that you’re proactively connecting the dots. For the introvert, allowing media coverage to speak for itself frees you from the pressure of having to make firm recommendations about strategy before you’ve gotten a sense of your client’s openness to an idea.
3. Be available.
Whether you’re an introvert or extrovert, you will be a visible and viable member of your team by simply making yourself available. If research needs to get done or a rapid response pitch needs to be written ASAP, responding within 15 minutes (even with the occasional “I’m swamped”) will help your team know you’re on the ball, and ready to jump in.
4. Lean into your strengths.
For my fellow introverted colleague Andre Russell, it’s all about jumping on opportunities that you feel comfortable with. Maybe getting on the phone with a reporter isn’t your cup of tea, but sending an email to an event organizer is no problem. Look for those opportunities in your comfort zone and proactively volunteer, so your team knows to go to you when similar situations arise.
Personally, I’m more than happy to connect one-on-one with my peers and brainstorm projects, talk through edits or discuss strategy, so I always mention that before taking on a new task.
5. Set aside recovery time.
Even if someone appears incredibly confident and comfortable talking with people, it takes a lot of energy for a naturally introverted person to do it. While extroverts get their energy from interacting with people, introverts and ambiverts are depleting their energy in those situations, which is why my colleague Katherine Grubaugh emphasizes the importance of winding down after a Zoom-heavy day.
“As an introvert, it doesn’t mean that I’m incapable of talking to strangers or presenting in front of executives, but when I have a meetings (read: socializing) heavy day, I make plans to stay at home that evening and curl up with a book or a show, and my cat. I can’t double-up on socializing during my work day, and going out for a drink after work. It’s too much. I need to recharge with quiet time to be able to come back tomorrow and engage with folks again.”
So, know your social limits and set up some “me time” to balance yourself. I personally love to center myself by exercising and taking my mind off of work in the evening.
No matter what you scored on your Meyers Briggs test, by its nature PR work will take you out of your comfort zone. While the pandemic may have been a blessing in disguise for introverted PR pros, by normalizing remote work and decreasing the amount of in-person interaction, it won’t last forever. Media dinners, in-person coffee meetings and other networking events are destined for a comeback, so it’s important to flex those extroverted muscles for when the time comes.
Mike Bradley is an account executive with Method Communications.