Posted At: November 14, 2012 2:40 P.M.
by Sam Nathews
Last fall, I had just begun to really understand public relations. I made a promise to myself to seek out knowledge about the industry and to do all that I could to give myself an advantage in the job hunt after graduation.
I immediately joined the University of Alabama PRSSA chapter and the UA PRCA chapter. I started to build relationships with my PR classmates, and I became involved in things that would challenge my professional abilities. I attended events all over the Southeast and networked with professionals and students, alike. That semester laid a sturdy foundation for my future in PR.
However, one of the most influential undertakings from that semester didn’t come from a lecture, a professional conference or an internship. It came from a book.
That book was Dale Carnegie’s “How to Win Friends and Influence People,” and it has had a profound impact on the way I live both my professional life and personal life. And, due to the fact that it has been one of the best-selling books for more than 75 years, it appears I’m not alone.
Time and time again, top-tier PR practitioners have lauded Carnegie’s book as a must-read for those of us in the industry — some even going as far as dubbing it “The PR Bible.”
As I’ve discovered, these rave reviews and recommendations come with good reason. Before we even turn a page, the book’s connection to PR stands out like a well-crafted pitch. The very title of the book itself essentially summarizes a PR pro’s two most basic goals: win friends (read: foster mutually beneficial relationships) and influence people (read: influence people).
But, the book’s applicability to the field of public relations reaches far beyond the cover page.
PR professionals are constantly engaging in interpersonal activities with people — be it with bosses, clients, journalists, target audiences and the list goes on. And though Carnegie’s book provides a wealth of grandfatherly, practical advice and compelling insight for all PR pros, I want to emphasize three points from it that can be adapted to each of the different professional relationships we might find ourselves in.
“If you want to gather honey, don’t kick over the beehive.” “Do not criticize, condemn or complain,” Carnegie advises. Avoid these three unwise men if at all possible because bashing people only hurts their pride and lowers their sense of importance, which can cause resentment to rise up in them. We certainly do not want clients, customers or reporters to resent us.
Carnegie says, “Instead of condemning people, let’s try to understand them. Let’s try to figure out why they do what they do. That’s a lot more profitable and intriguing than criticism; and it breeds sympathy, tolerance and kindness.”
When we show these virtues to others, we begin to accumulate a reservoir of goodwill for ourselves that we can draw upon if we find ourselves in a challenging situation.
“Be hearty in your approbation and lavish in your praise.” Carnegie tells us to “give honest and sincere appreciation.” This does not mean we should spew empty flattery on everyone we meet. Carnegie notes a difference between genuine appreciation and flattery; flattery is shallow, selfish and insincere, while genuine appreciation is just the opposite.
The next time you’re looking to pitch to a reporter, do some homework and read their previous work. If you find aspects from their earlier stories worthy of praise, be sure to share your appreciation with them. They will sense whether you’re being genuine, and if you are, they will most likely value that. A sincere compliment has few enemies.
“Arouse in the other person an eager want.” Develop the invaluable ability to view the world from the other person’s perspective. Understand his goals, his interests and what motivates him. Once this skill is mastered, we become not only able to talk in terms of the other person’s wants, but also to show him how to obtain them.
The ability to recognize and anticipate a journalist’s or client’s needs is vital to accomplishing our goals.
I owe a lot to Mr. Carnegie. The principles in his book have served me well in the early stages of my career.
How might they help you?