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How curiosity will help you stand out in a public relations career

In Professional/Networking, Strategic Communications by David Waymire

What’s a great attribute for someone in public relations?

Curiosity.

To have a really deep understanding of the clients’ needs and how to meet them, you need to know that client in many ways. The people. The processes they use. Their customers. The forces that bear on them and that they are trying to change.

And the only way to understand those is to be curious about everything going on with the client. Someone who just waits to hear from the client what he or she wants to do is not going to deliver the kind of services that client needs.

At Martin Waymire, we have our four-step “RACE” process: Research, Action Plan, Communication, Evaluation. This process guides our work with our clients.

In many ways, research is driven by curiosity.

Perhaps it’s a desire to know what has happened in the past – looking at newspaper coverage, or reading annual reports, or interviewing (sometimes over a beer) the staff and executives. Again, a high level of curiosity is a great driver to dig a little deeper to get a better understanding.

Perhaps you need to know how the public views your client today. Polling and focus groups are your tools. But to put together the best instrument for the poll or focus group, you need to turn on your curiosity, to think about what people might think, about what would really change or reinforce attitudes.

Perhaps you want to think about what is going to affect the client in the future for putting together a crisis management plan. To help the client think about what challenges that may arise, you need to learn what has happened in the past and what similar companies have faced. Curiosity drives that thinking.

I come from the world of reporting. And there, the best and the brightest are the most curious. The reporter who asks that one more question not as a “gotcha” but as a “I’d really like to know,” or drives out to the scene to see with his or her own eyes what is happening, or checks the clips one more time to figure out the past, is the one who will do the best job explaining the world they are writing about to readers.

I’m writing this during a break at the Michigan Association of Health Plans summer conference. It’s a great place for the curious. We’ve heard from a physician who explained how early childhood traumas affect the health of adults. We’ve listened to a futurist offering his views on the world coming at us at breakneck speed.

If you chose to miss those presentations, you weren’t all that curious. And you missed great opportunities to gain knowledge that can help you deliver solutions.

Students and young practioners often ask me what they should be doing to make themselves more valuable. I talk about the world of social media that they have grown up with and how they can help translate that into public relations activities. I suggest that they focus on their writing. If you can write, you will always have a job.

But if you want to go to the head of the class, to move up in our firm or others, you need to have that little extra attribute that drives you to make one more phone call, do one more Google search, have that one more conversation with the client, read that one more report – the trait of curiosity, a desire to know more and more about the world, past, present and future, that we all endeavor to mold.