Nowadays, public relations (PR) is a high-tech, digital profession, inundated with hashtags, social media analytics, website construction, promotional videos and, increasingly, artificial intelligence. PR practitioners are wholly dependent on digital softwares like Cision and Meltwater to achieve earned media and find the necessary influencers to promote their clients. Gone are the days of handwritten letters and scrolling through a Yellow Pages to find a desired contact. With so much technology in the industry, it can be easy to lose sight of the most fundamental aspect of PR: building personal relationships. At the end of the day, we’re all still human beings who value face-to-face interactions. We value manners and thoughtful actions. And we love feeling appreciated by our peers. The rules of engagement for such rudimentary relationship building are timeless and can make the difference between a successful PR campaign and a failed one. The best way to learn these old-timey rules is to heed the advice of an old-timey guy – Dale Carnegie.
Carnegie was an American writer and lecturer, and the developer of famous courses in self-improvement, salesmanship, corporate training, public speaking, and interpersonal skills. In October 1936, he published his magnum opus: How to Win Friends and Influence People. The book went on to be a massive, worldwide success, galvanizing its readers with 30 core principles on how to… well… win friends and influence people. At the time of its publication, self-improvement books were nearly unheard of. The closest most readers got to reading one was the Bible or other religious texts. Carnegie changed the game by explaining in a clear and cogent terms the keys to persuasion and unlocking human desire. His principles are lauded as holy scripture in the sales, entrepreneurship and business space. But they are just as applicable – if not more so – in PR.
As I mentioned, there are 30 Carnegie principles in How to Win Friends and Influence People, but for the sake of time and efficiency, I will highlight three of the principles I believe are most important for PR practitioners.
Principle #1: Don't Criticize, Condemn or Complain
PR is a team-based sport. Very seldom will practitioners manage a campaign completely on their own. Therefore, those in the industry must keep their colleagues’ humanity in mind throughout the ups and downs of a campaign. If a member of the team is struggling to hit deadlines or produce effective content, team leaders should be careful not to criticize, condemn or complain about it. There are more tactful ways to navigate the situation. Instead of criticizing a colleague’s work, one might suggest ways they can improve upon what they’ve already done. One might say, “I really enjoyed your blog post on our client’s products! I was thinking that you could add pictures of the products to make it even better.”
Principle #2: Try Honestly to See Things from The Other Person's Point of View
As a PR practitioner, you will need to build relationships with an assortment of journalists. Building them is easy but keeping them is hard. After all, they don’t call it earned media for nothing. Wise PR pros will understand the job of a journalist and curate their content to fit the journalist’s needs. In other words, they will see things from the journalist’s point of view. An example of how to do this would be by supplementing a story pitch with a backgrounder, fact sheet and social media kit so a journalist can easily research the story and promote it through their media channels. Also, making sure the story pitch fits the criteria for newsworthiness will help the journalist in their pursuit to publish riveting content.
Principle #3: Be Hearty in Your Approbation and Lavish in Your Praise
People want to feel like they’ve done a good job. They want to feel like they’ve contributed to something or helped in some way. Therefore, savvy PR pros should always take the time to praise their colleagues for the work they’ve done. Whether it’s a journalist who provided positive coverage for their client or a colleague who wrote an especially captivating tweet, PR practitioners should heap hearty approbation and lavish praise unto them. The age-old rule of politeness may have faded from popular culture, but it is still just as effective as it was in Carnegie’s day. Make a person feel appreciated and they will be more likely to cherish their relationship with you.
If you want to be a top-tier PR professional, buy or check out a copy of How to Win Friends and Influence People. The three principles I’ve outlined in this blog only scratch the surface of the interpersonal wisdom offered in the book. You will find that every principle can be boiled down to masterful communication, which is the single most important skill one can possess in PR.