By Katie Brenneman
Whether you’re still a student, you’re just starting your PR career, or you’ve been working in the field for a while, demonstrating strong leadership skills is instrumental to your success. Acting like a leader isn’t always easy, though, especially when you’re just starting out. The good news, however, is that leadership skills are very much within your control. With study, practice, and strategy, you too can act like a leader, no matter how young your career might be.
The Essential Skills
No matter what your particular area of interest or expertise, there are certain skills that all good PR leaders share. Perhaps the most important of these is the ability to communicate effectively with any audience, in any context, and for any purpose.
So, if you want to look like a pro, you need to hone your speaking skills. Consider signing up for a public speaking course to help you get comfortable talking in front of crowds. Better still, take advantage of every opportunity to deliver a speech or give a presentation. You can even take classes for presentation design. The more experience you have, the more confident you will feel.
But you shouldn’t stop with mastering public speaking. In today’s digital age, you’re also probably going to be called upon to communicate through technology. Not only this, but when you’re reaching out through digital platforms, you will also likely be engaging with an increasingly diverse audience, an audience that may originate from widely different cultural and linguistic backgrounds.
Likewise, you may originate from a minority community and may be seeking to put your experience, knowledge, and values to work both within your community and beyond it. Looking like a leader means capitalizing and building on the experiences, skill sets, and connections that make you uniquely you. For instance, if you are not a native English speaker, you might use your language skills to build bridges between communities. And that will make you look like a true leader because a leader knows who they are and what value they alone can add to any endeavor.
Find a Mentor
The early stages of your career are often the most challenging, especially as you try to present yourself as a leader when, really, you’re still just a newbie. That’s why one of the best things that you can do for yourself is to find a mentor who can help you navigate the rapids of launching a PR career with poise and confidence.
Fortunately, your mentor can be found almost anywhere. They might be a trusted professor or academic advisor or even an experienced pro you might connect with through a professional online discussion forum. In fact, you don’t have to limit yourself to one mentor alone. Learning to act like a leader often depends on seeking out many mentors, watching what they do, and emulating their best attributes.
When you’re just starting and you’re trying to establish your credibility as a competent professional, it can feel as if you’re required to project an image of steely strength and tough-as-nails business savvy.
But the reality is that a true leader knows how to show empathy and compassion when it is warranted. Indeed, empathy is more important in the field of PR than perhaps in any other field of business. After all, it’s right there in the name: Your job is to relate to the public, and you just can’t do that without empathy.
Showing leadership in PR is going to mean that sometimes you buck the business impulse to prioritize the bottom line and instead inspire your colleagues to restore the human factor to your work. When you demonstrate caring for your coworkers and your customers alike, you will be adhering to the humane principles that truly define a strong PR leader.
The Connection Between Confidence and Competence
We all know that a good leader projects confidence. But confidence isn’t something that just happens. Confidence is a byproduct of competence, and competence comes through study and experience. What that means is that if you want to act like a leader, then you have to be diligent in learning your stuff.
So, it’s imperative to take every opportunity you can to hone your skills. Attend conferences and seminars. Read professional journals and engage with your professional community online through sites such as LinkedIn. Above all, take advantage of the seemingly infinite opportunities for learning from some of the world’s greatest experts. You can audit online courses for little or no cost from institutions such as Harvard and Princeton. And you study nearly any topic, on demand, and at your own pace.
And what that means is that with every article read, every course taken, every podcast listened to, you’re going to have a bit more knowledge and, consequently, a bit more of the confidence you need to carry yourself as a PR leader.
Launching a career in public relations may not be easy but learning to act like a leader can be a powerful asset in helping you make a start in your professional life. And the great news is that there are many ways to do this, from finding a mentor to developing your communication skills to learning to practice empathy. Cultivating these skills early on can help you to build a rich and rewarding career that endures for decades to come!
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