5 Tips For Managing Powerful PR Personalities

You’ve assembled a top-notch team of PR professionals who bring a range of perspectives and skills to your organization. It’s an interesting mix of different personalities and skill sets that complement and challenge each other — well done!

That said, it’s a good bet your team comprises members with a mix of various rankings in the “Big Five” personality traits, with surprisingly significant consequences for work relationships. Dealing with staff personality traits doesn’t have to be a conundrum, however. With the right insights and approach, there are ways to smoothly work through what friction might arise over the normal course of the week.

Here are our tips for navigating the personality roadmap:

The Open employee can illustrate non-obvious possibilities and develop insights that are occasionally revolutionary. Sometimes, their very openness makes it difficult for them to stay grounded, so it’s important to focus or redirect when necessary.

The Conscientious have invaluable discipline, reliability and impulse control — capable of keeping the team going when a deadline or other problem seems insurmountable. Watch out for excessive discipline — failure to recognize and embrace the humanity of others on a team which can lead to alienation.

The Extrovert is the PR team cheerleader, bringing boundless enthusiasm that infects and inspires others, especially when a pitch is going south or a budget has been slashed. But watch for the extrovert who becomes overbearing or impulsive, and find ways to encourage her/him to share the spotlight.

The Agreeable smooths over just about any human interaction, particularly when stronger personalities are stressing over decisions or direction. But being agreeable or deferential to the point of never expressing one’s true thoughts can be detrimental. And in PR, pushovers often suffer the consequences of inaction. Model proactive traits and draw opinions out of the “agreeable,” even if it means putting them on the spot once in a while.

The Neurotic lacks a certain emotional stability and tends toward overreaction. An ideal team member here ranks low on this trait. But if you want someone to anticipate potential problems, a higher level of reactivity isn’t bad!
Here are some further tips to managing the PR personalities on your team:

Create strategic alliances between complementary personality types. Team up your highly conscientious and open staffers — the combination of imagination and discipline is a winner. Or tame the excesses of your extrovert with your most agreeable member. They’ll encourage one another.

Carve out discrete roles for each member that accentuate skillsets. Determine who would be best to speak at conferences or attend networking events (that extrovert member) or who might be best to draft a white paper or other content (consider the conscientious).

Spend one-on-one time. Learn about their more nuanced skills by talking – you may find out your “neurotic” is actually a visionary pointing out potential pitfalls and how to avoid them.

Don’t stress if it isn’t “all Kumbaya all the time” It’s important that everyone respect one another but healthy discourse and disagreement are often a good thing, producing new ideas and directions.

Encourage the team to challenge leadership. Demonstrate “openness” and value challenges to the status quo that can help achieve business goals.

A Public Relations Situation: One In An Occasional Series

We in the PR agency world consider ourselves fairly expert at handling delicate client situations. Here we will occasionally share some examples of how our team has successfully defused, or even leveraged, a potentially negative situation. This post considers the case of the fired journalist.

In recent weeks our team set up a couple of interviews that went well until the PR team members who “owned”each reporter relationship followed up to see about a pub date and, after a few communications, discovered the writers had been let go.

One journalist stayed in touch and though the story was now DOA, he did keep us up to date on his whereabouts. The other writer, despite our best efforts to get in touch, seemed to have vanished. We then reached out to the writer’s immediate superior, by email and phone, to ask what could be done to salvage the story.  Hearing nothing after a few days, we knew we had to employ other strategies.

We made the decision to go to the top, to the publisher of the paper. While it isn’t always wise to take your complaint straight to the top (once you get there, you can’t come back down!) We sided with consumer advocate, customer service expert and blogger, Chris Elliott, who notes that there are times when “a direct appeal to the CEO might make sense.”

We drafted a polite, factual accounting of the details and asked that our story be considered for publication since it had already been completed. We heard back in less than 24 hours. While the publisher was personally unable to resolve our situation, suddenly we did hear from the departed journo’s editor, apologizing for the entire incident. Although he was no longer able to run the story, he was conciliatory and very open to working together in the future.

Think you need to take your troubles to the top? Try these tips.

Try to maintain a relationship with your first contact.  Most people land on their feet eventually and appreciate staying in touch with someone they’ve successfully worked with before. Leapfrog only when you absolutely must.

Write vs. call. Gatekeepers will go out of their way to prevent your call from getting through and email has a permanent record.

Don’t let emotions get the best of you. No matter how angry you might be about a situation, remain calm and concise in your email, simply laying out the facts and asking for resolution.

Do ask for exactly what you want. If you don’t at least try, you’ll never know!

Thank all parties. Obviously.