‘NEARLY all rich and powerful people are not notably talented, educated, charming or good-looking. They become rich and powerful by wanting to be rich and powerful.
Your vision of where or who you want to be is the greatest asset you have. Without having a goal, it’s difficult to score.”
These are the opening lines of the book It’s Not How Good You Are, It’s How Good You Want to Be, written by the late great creative Paul Arden. It’s hard not to notice and remember these four lines. They jump at you the moment you turn the cover: written in bold sans serif typeface in white, on black pages, one sentence per page.
A small book that packs a big punch—that’s the easiest way to sum up what I think of this book. The layout and typography are easy on the eyes, with just enough pictures to break the monotony of the text. Beyond the aesthetics, the contents are written clearly and concisely, like good advertising copy.
It provides helpful, practical insights that can be useful to people in different seasons in their career. It may be a tad more relatable to people in industries like advertising and public relations, but is flexible enough to transcend industry, age, status, timing, and other types of boundaries.
I zeroed in on some points that I believe are not only practical but definitely helpful for anyone seeking to become better, as people or as PR practitioners.
1. Set targets
It‘s difficult to measure success when you don’t know what you’re measuring. Arden reminds us to set a benchmark for ourselves: Just how good do you want to be? And don’t let anyone dictate this—this is all on you. You will be the one to do the work, after all. Be very specific, too, just like how Posh Spice Victoria Beckham said she wanted “to be as famous as Persil Automatic” (a washing machine detergent brand that I personally did not know of until reading Arden’s book—but is probably a household name in the United Kingdom where Beckham is from). The same goes for your campaigns. Set clear objectives, the SMART ones: specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, time-bound.
2. Learn from criticisms
He also made a great point about seeking criticism rather than praise. Knowing your shortcomings, you can better figure out how to improve. For a brand, it pays to know what your customers don’t like about your product or service. Entire programs can be built around bridging the gap from customer dissatisfaction to delight.
3. Share your ideas
Don’t be stingy with what you know. Share it with others. This is one way to build on those ideas and make them greater than they are. Other people’s points of view can make your ideas richer. You don’t see everything and neither does everyone else. And if you give away what you have, you’ll constantly be forced to look for more ideas elsewhere, thus feeding your creativity.
4. Highlight the positive; eliminate the negative
What you have going for you, or what your brand has going for it, dramatize it, sell it to death. Just make sure the positives that you’re highlighting have a basis in fact. On the flipside, don’t put your competition down. They can do that on their own.
5. “Do not put your cleverness in front of the communication”
As a former journalist, I can never forget what I was repeatedly told by my seniors in the field: you deliver the news; you are not the news. Same way with PR and communication: go light on the bells and whistles and focus on the substance. Know the right questions to ask, and you’ll ultimately find yourself getting the right answers—and the ideas you can use for your next campaign.
6. Be persistent—laugh in the face of slammed doors
Don’t take no for an answer. If you lose a pitch or do not get approval for a project proposal, ask why. Use those answers to tweak your original proposal and pitch again.
7. Don’t be afraid to fail
“Failures and false starts are a precondition to success,” Arden said in his book. Even some of the greatest people in history—Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Edison, Albert Einstei—had more than their fair share of failure.
8. “It’s wrong to be right; it’s right to be wrong”
Avoid pushing your “rightness” all the time. This closes your mind to new ideas. On the other hand, try to be wrong, too—take risks with seemingly wrong ideas, something that has never been done in your organization and, therefore, seems so very wrong to your colleagues. Who knows where that road could lead? Maybe nowhere or maybe everywhere.
9. Behold, the silly idea
Coax your playful self out and explore the anti-solution—the opposite of what the solution requires. Make random objects that you see around the room, outside the window, or on TV the solution to whatever problem you have. Thinking like this could help you get out of mental blocks, and possibly even produce the solution you were looking for.
10. “Don’t give a speech. Put on a show.”
“Show, don’t tell,” one of my journalism mentors instructed me, as I struggled, as a 19-year-old intern, to write my first feature story for the Philippine Daily Inquirer. Paint pictures with your words. In doing presentations or delivering speeches, this advice works well, too. Use powerful, engaging visuals. They don’t always have to be sophisticated animationW and dynamic graphics. Just make sure you use striking visuals that will make your viewers remember what you talked about—and remember you.
PR Matters is a roundtable column by members of the local chapter of the United Kingdom-based International Public Relations Association (Ipra), the world’s premier organization for PR professionals around the world. Abigail L. Ho-Torres is AVP and Head of Customer Experience of Maynilad Water Services Inc. She spent more than a decade as a business journalist before making the leap to the corporate world.
We are devoting a special column each month to answer our readers’ questions about public relations. Please send your questions or comments to email@example.com.
Image credits: Upklyak | www.freepik.com