A couple nights ago I sat in on #tweenPR, a Twitter chat targeted towards mid-level PR practitioners as the chat’s official mentor. I’m grateful that Nicole Nolte and Suzie Linville, creators of the chat, consider me mentor material, though one might reasonably ask what gaping hole exists in the development of afore-mentioned mid-level professionals that they felt the need to create this.

Read the explanation? Excellent. I don’t need to go into it then.

This week’s chat focused on the ABC’s (Assets, Benefits, Challenges) of managing junior-level employees. My answer? Make your junior team members GLEAM (image: photon’s Flickrstream, Creative Commons).

As in:

Guide

Listen

Empower

Attribute

Motivate

This seemed to strike a chord, as you can see from these retweets:

As I thought more about this, it occurred to me that you could take this same acronym and apply it in your day-to-day PR efforts for the benefit of your clients and/or organizations, not to mention yourself:

Guide

Ninety-nine percent of the time, when organizations seek outside counsel, it’s not because they lack PR skills in-house. What they really want is for you to provide an unbiased evaluation of their efforts, gently steer them away from temptation (shiny new toy, anyone?) and make sure they’re not losing the wood for the trees.

As a PR practitioner, it’s critical that you serve as a guide.

Not a  “yes sir, no sir, three bags full sir” kind of agency. But a real guide who focuses on your client’s goals and measurable objectives, and delivers the know-how that enables them to achieve said objectives.

Listen

Think you’re the only one who had a bad day? The only one who had to dance around office politics? Think again. You’re far from being the only one to endure being left out of the loop, or trying to figure out ways to get ahead.

Chances are: your client is too.

So if you’re lucky enough to build up a rapport with your client and it’s clear she needs to vent – listen. Without talking.

I know it’s difficult, because we PR people seem to have a gene that’s geared towards trying to fix everything we come across (must be that measurable objective thing). But seriously – just listen.

It shouldn’t surprise you, but if you’re an effective listener, you’ll enable those talking to you to figure out exactly what they need to do. And the bonus: you get to wear a halo for being a problem-solving genius… without doing anything, not to mention possibly glean information on the work situation you’re involved in that can help make your strategies more effective.

Empower

Now you’re scratching delicately smoothing your head, wondering just how you can empower your clients (image: S. M. Ameli, Creative Commons). After all, they’re the ones who pay the bills, they’re the ones who keep things moving… right?

Right. But also not-so-right.

If your clients didn’t hire people like you to help them along, they wouldn’t be able to do all the great stuff they do, which enables them to pay your bills. And the best way to make sure they keep doing that? Empower them.

If they’ve hired you to perform a particular service for them… show them how you do it. If you serve as in-house PR counsel, make sure you pay as much attention to your internal audiences as you do to your external audiences. Educate them so that the next time they have to make an important decision, they know they can count on you for honest, supportive advice.

Show them what you’re doing, why it’s important and tell them how they can help.

Your most effective ambassadors are the ones you empower. Which means you must serve not so much as a director, or consultant, but as a collaborator.

Attribute

When you’re on the outside, most of the time you’re worried about getting credit for what you’ve done (come on, admit it). You’re the one who came up with that bright idea, not the other agency. (How else will you keep the account, right?)

But what if you all came up with the bright idea? Or what if – shock and awe – your client was the one who came up with the idea in the first place?

Give them the credit. More than that, make sure their supervisors know they’re the one(s) who came up with said bright idea. I’m not usually a fan of reply-all emails, but this is one case where you can use it well to blow someone else’s horn.

It’s not just generous, it’s the right thing to do. And it will serve you in good stead. Because when it comes time to renew the contract, guess who’ll put a smile on the client’s face?

Motivate

Across the board, human beings respond well to positive reinforcement (check out this extremely interesting deck on psychology and social media). This is not to say we should over-justify what we undertake.

But when was the last time you did something happily (image: Sean Dreilinger, Creative Commons) because someone yelled at you?

Or because they told you how much you sucked?

As PR practitioners, part of our charge is to educate and motivate those we work with to do better, quicker (or more efficiently) and wiser, to paraphrase “Citius, Altius, Fortius.”

So help your clients (or your “in-house clients”) be better, more educated, and more productive. In other words, motivate them to do their job better – and they will help you do your job better.

The Bottom Line

If you put a gleam in your client’s eye, chances are that gleam will bounce right back off of you. That won’t just make you a happy practitioner, it’ll make you a proud one; and what better reward could you ask for?

What do you think? What’s your mantra for PR excellence? Do share by leaving a note below.

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Shonali Burke
Founder and publisher of Waxing UnLyrical, Shonali Burke helps smart businesses make bank by taking their communications from corporate codswallop to community cool™. She is also the founder of The Social PR Virtuoso®, which provides online, on-demand training that helps you unleash your inner Social PR superhero. Shonali is mad about ABBA, bacon, cooking, dogs, and Elvis, though not necessarily in that order. Wouldn't you like to be in her kitchen?
Shonali Burke