April 2, 2014
Yes, you heard me right. Thick skin is in. I would go so far as to say it’s the new black of Public Relations.
Recently, I stumbled upon blog post titled “10 Traits of Talented Public Relations Pros.” Ugh, I thought. Another cliché article how to be successful in the colossal world of PR. I glazed over the post with little enthusiasm until I reached number eight on the list. Suddenly, a nerve was struck.
“Have Thick Skin” was advice #8. I thought, this really should have been number one on the list,. Since my middle and high school years of playing competitive travel sports, coaches and mentors have loved to tell me to “have a thick skin” and be “mentally tough.” But what did mean? In high school, I had no clue. It wasn’t until college that I began to grasp this concept. As a young, aspiring public relations professional, these words of advice have become increasingly more important and relevant to my life.
Frankly, public relations is not for the faint hearted. The same goes for any work in journalism. Reporters get shot down all the time. People rudely refuse to answer questions or be interviewed. Writers get criticized for the things they write about. News broadcasters, especially women, are scrutinized for their hair, makeup and outfit choices. Campaigns aren’t always successful. Pitches could be a hit or miss.
Public relations professionals must be able to receive criticism. Critical feedback has no filer and it will come from a variety of people and sources. It can be biting and painful, but it’s inevitable. As much as I hate clichés, the old saying “If you can’t take the heat, get out of the kitchen” is rather appropriate advice. Yet, negative feedback doesn’t only have to be negative. It’s a way to reevaluate and improve your objective, making the end result more successful. If the only thing you heard was how awesome and wonderful you are all of the time, would there be any room for change or progression? Probably not.
I am 100% confident when I say that no human on planet earth is a stranger to criticism. I have been criticized for everything – from being an only child to having an Android phone before I bought an iPhone (which is just about the dumbest thing ever). I vehemently believe that it can only disable you if you let it. Allow yourself to learn and prosper from it instead.
On the flip side of the coin, PR professionals shouldn’t be afraid to be critical when necessary. If you sense a potential problem or issue, speak up! Communication is the core of public relations, and professionals are inherently strong communicators. Sharing your insights with colleagues and peers will lead them to respect you and view you as asset to the group. There is always room for improvement. Use your criticism wisely and effectively.
In short, wear your Thick Skin and wear it proud. Don’t forget to smile, too.
Morgan Borer is studying Strategic Communications with specializations in Retail Merchandising and Fashion Product Development. You can follow her on Twitter at @morganborer.