Introverts Welcome in Public Relations

Q.  I’m thinking about applying to some PR/communications programs in Canada. I like many aspects of the field, like all the writing one has to do. But I am an introvert. I can do public speaking fine but I’m definitely not an extroverted “people person”… my question is, do you have to be an extrovert to do well in PR/communications?  -GP

A.  Despite the perception that everyone in public relations is an extrovert, the profession is home to many introverts who are very successful.  I bounced your question off someone claiming she’s an introvert, and she said she had the same concerns when she decided to switch her major to PR.  She’s now a successful agency vice president, who manages projects well and is respected for her serious approach to helping clients and managing her team.  

You might benefit from taking a personality test that confirms and quantifies your level of introversion.  You may not be introverted in areas that are deemed critical to public relations.  For instance, great writers and researchers don’t have to be feel comfortable glad-handing colleagues and clients, yet their work is critical to the success of the team.   As you exceed in what you do well, you’ll no doubt build your confidence level and become quite comfortable as a public relations practitioner–even if you’re not a full-fledged extrovert. 

 

9 comments on this post.
  1. Lucy:

    Good to know! I’m also an introvert and took the quiz to confirm it. I shared this on my blog with a link. Thanks for the information!

  2. Richard Bailey:

    What we need in PR are thoughtful practitioners. If this leads to more introverted recruits, good.

    Two of the best colleagues I’ve ever worked with in consultancy were high calibre intellectuals (first class degrees from Oxford and Cambridge); one was certainly an introvert. The other was just prodigiously talented.

    Put crudely, the commercial challenge in the twentieth century was how to sell more stuff (and maybe this required lots of extroverts to perform a sales support role).

    In the twenty-first century, the challenge that PR addresses is ‘how to gain trust and maintain legitimacy’. Now, exactly how does your typical extrovert help with this?

  3. Jordan:

    I completely identify with this post . I’ve always worried that my introversion will prevent me from being successful in the public relations field. Do you think introverts have any advantages over extroverts, when it comes to public relations? Or does it just depend on the person?

  4. Tara Mueller:

    I am going into public relations as well and I feel like the main quality that I have been improving on is leadership. Public relations is about making quick decisions that will be good for all parties. This requires someone to be confident in their decision making as well as someone who can be quick on their feet. Both of these qualities you can find in leadership. Introvert or extravert it doesn’t matter as long as you can stand up and be a leader.

  5. Megan:

    I wouldn’t call myself an extrovert even though I can easily introduce and carry on conversations. I think I’m more approachable than anything. I took the quiz and scored an introvert/extrovert. So no questions really answered there but I agree with it none the less!
    I think PR communications is very much about being comfortable being approached and approaching others. Another characteristic needed would be adaptability. A PR professional needs to be ready to change his/her plan and feel confident with that new plan at any given time.

  6. Kristin M:

    I definitely related to this post. I’ve always been an introvert (and the test confirms it), but I felt that it could be an advantage in certain situations. The point that building confidence in what you do will lead to feeling more comfortable is a good one. Thanks for the post!

  7. Culpwrit:

    Good comments everyone. Jordan: You answered your own question, some introverts have qualities that give them advantages in the profession. As you note, it all depends on the individual. If you love what you do, you’ll perform it to the best of your ability and you’ll be recognized for doing so whether or not you’re an introvert.

  8. Kevin:

    I haven’t related to a post this much in a long time. My introvert status (the test was like reading a diary of my life) has concerned me for years as I’ve tried to break into the industry.

    A few years back, an acquaintance asked me why I chose the field, because it seemed as though I hated the public. It took me a while to form a cogent answer, but when I did it sounded remarkably like all of the above points. It certainly seems as though the industry is moving away from the generalist model that could well be an introvert’s downfall, if new systems like Golin’s g4 restructuring are any indication.

    “Love what you do, and the rest will take care of itself” has never seemed more appropriate. Thanks for validating our place in the industry.

  9. Madison Hrdlicka:

    This has been my number one concern with choosing public relations as my major. It seemed like every time I told someone my major I would get a comment such as “ooh thats pretty gutsy you must be really outgoing!” I’m glad to know that you don’t have to be a 100% extrovert to be successfull in this field. I have made myself feel better by assuming that the more comfortable I become in my career, the more extroverted and outgoing I will become and I am happy to know that this is often the case!

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