David L. Remund, Ph.D., APR, wrote an excellent article featured in the March edition of Public Relations Tactics, “Introverts in an Extroverted Profession.” Remund, in addition to being a distinguished communications professional and a professor of PR at the University of Oregon, is an introvert. In his piece, Remund identifies some common introvert traits and relates them to working in the PR industry.
As a fellow introvert, his writing struck a chord with me. At first, I was wary about planting my feet in the talkative, über-extroverted world of communications and PR. However, I’ve come to find that some of the features of an introverted personality can be big strengths in the PR profession.
As Remund explains, introverts naturally prefer listening over talking. Certainly, this can have its drawbacks. Remund cites an example from early in his career when a mentor told him, “Unless you start speaking up in meetings, there is no point in being there.” That’s too bad, because from my experience, introverts are bubbling with great ideas. It’s not that we’re unsure of ourselves, we just take time to consider and examine our ideas before presenting them.
Being a great listener is also paramount to crafting effective messages. For a message to deliver any desired effect, it must connect with its intended audience. Listen to your audience to figure out what resonates with them, then create and target your communications accordingly.
Remund makes another great point about introverts later on: we dislike small talk. As he explains, “introverts prefer talking when the conversation is substantive and purposeful.” Now, don’t get me wrong, I do enjoy talking with coworkers about the news, sports, and TV shows. It’s a distraction, which can sometimes provide important stress relief in a busy office environment. But it’s also just that—a distraction. Introverts realize this, which is why we’re good at getting to the point. Being succinct has always been important to communications professionals. Now, in the era of scrolling newsfeeds and 140-character limits, capturing attention and saying a whole lot with only a few words is more critical than ever.
Extroverts may rule the boardrooms and networking events of the PR world, but don’t count the introverts out. We’re also working – albeit, quietly – on solutions to complex communications problems and to hone down our organization’s or our client’s messages. Of course, none of this is to say that introverts are somehow the superior personality. Let’s face it: we need each other to deliver the best possible service to clients.