By: Tawanda Carlton, Junior Account Executive
As public relations professionals, our job is to provide counsel and leverage our expertise across various subject-matters. When it comes to guiding clients in the right direction as it relates to media relations, strategy, and execution, we do this by having the knowledge and understanding of how to accomplish these goals, execute them, and lastly, having the confidence to get it done.
I’ve found that confidence is the top soft skill needed to succeed in PR regardless of title, how junior or senior you are, or how many years you have under your belt. In a business predominately comprised of women, it’s important to realize how to use our voice assuredly to get things accomplished, and how to be seen and recognized as a leader not just in the office, but in our industry.
The word con-man stems from the word “confidence man” and by definition, a confidence man, or a con-man, is a person who cheats or tricks someone by gaining their trust and persuading them to believe something that is not true. Negative, right? But, what if you switch your mode of thinking? What if we used the word to define how we approach situations in which we have the ability to use our skills and intelligence to own a project, campaign, strategy session or client meeting? Think of it more as “confidencing” your way through the decisions you make on a daily basis by using truth, statistics, expertise, and experience.
Lois P. Frankel’s book “Nice Girls Don’t get the Corner Office,” details her observation as it relates to the specific behaviors women learn early on that sabotage them as adults. These are actually attributes many of us don’t realize we utilize in and out of the workplace. Consider the following:
Timid Talk. In her book Frankel says, “The best ideas fall on deaf ears if they’re not communicated in ways that instill confidence and credibility. How you sound doesn’t refer to the content of your messages but rather to your word choices, tone of voice, speed of speech, and how you organize your thoughts.” Communicating in an assertive manner doesn’t have to take on a negative connotation. An assertive communicator is not afraid to ask for things directly because they know what they want. It’s truly a powerful form of communication when used correctly.
Couching Statements. Do you find yourself couching statements as questions? It’s a mistake I’ve seen in the workplace time and time again and a mistake I myself have made, “asking a question as a safe way of expressing an idea without being perceived as too direct or pushy. By asking a question instead of making a statement we relinquish ownership of and the outcomes for our ideas.”
Polling Before Making a Decision. How many opinions must you collect before you decide to make a decision on a project, strategy, or idea? “Recognizing the value of alternative input is a good idea but the inability to act without knowing what everyone thinks and if they approve isn’t.”
Needing to Be Liked. My mentor once told me to “leave the nice girl at home”, which brings me to one of the most important takeaways from this book, needing to be liked – “it’s critical to understand the difference between being liked and being respected. If you are only concerned with being liked you will most likely miss the opportunity to be respected. Your need to be liked will preclude you from taking the kind of risks taken by those who are respected. Paradoxically, it’s the people who are liked and respected who are most successful in the workplace.”
As women in the workplace, we must realize genuinely having a voice means you are contributing to the conversation by adding value and true perspective. Using your voice means thinking strategically about what, how, and when you say something. Most importantly “confidencing” your way (with facts, experience, and expertise) through your career is how you will gain the respect and authority that ultimately becomes the cornerstone of your success in this industry.