Public relations is a term we rarely use these days. Today, public relations is more commonly referred to as “communications.” For me, communications captures what we truly do each day. We communicate.
When individuals visit our office for an interview, they often talk about their “people skills.” When we ask candidates to tell us why they are pursuing careers in public relations, a common response is, “I really enjoy working with people; I’m a people-person.” I would recommend not saying you are a “people-person.” Instead, applicants should talk about what they are passionate about and how they have used this passion to connect with others. They should then tie these passions with the work of their future employer.
I believe communications is all about finding the intersections we all have in life. These intersections bring people together through one or more core touch points. Today, these touch points are found in our personal stories and experiences.
A top communicator doesn’t follow a traditional pathway; rather, he or she forges new ones. And when he or she finds these intersections and pathways, they recognize that communications goes way beyond just public relations. Communications is deeper and really focuses on making that emotional connection between people, brands, ideas and so much more.
A good communicator possesses a keen sense of curiosity and awareness, and believes learning is an ongoing process.
Furthermore, the smartest communicators don’t use tired idioms that are really meant to suppress conversation and creativity. And they don’t focus on talking in sound bites as we are often told to do in an “elevator speech.”
Tired terms that are banned from my own speeches include:
As a good communicator, I think in the box first, then step out. I believe if we can create a better wheel, let’s reinvent it. Walk and talk? What if we just walk without saying a word. As for a level playing field, the smartest communicators recognize that our field will never be level — at least in our lifetime. If you want to be a communicator and succeed, find a way to navigate that uneven field.
The smartest communicators don’t study public relations, they study life. The smartest communicators, don’t wait for things to happen; instead they make them happen.
To wrap up, I want to share some quotes from my role models.
“If you want to lift yourself up, lift up someone else.” — Booker T. Washington of the Tuskegee Institute
“Make a customer, not a sale.” — Katherine Barchetti, former retailer from Pittsburgh
“There is no finish line.” — Phil Knight, founder of Nike
“Nothing works unless you do.” — Maya Angelou, poet
Bill Imada is the chairman and chief connectivity officer of the IW Group, a full-service communications firm that specializes in the growing multicultural markets in the United States.