Emotional Intelligence: Rising Up in the Face of Organizational Dis-Ease

By Heathere Evans

We are living in an era marked by epidemic dis-ease and misconduct in the workplace. More people every day are finding their courage in a unified outcry for a better way. As communicators, how can we help unhealthy organizations heal and detoxify our workplaces so they stay healthy? A starting point is emotional intelligence.

What is Emotional Intelligence (EQ)?

The term “emotional intelligence” was coined in 1990 in a research paper by two psychology professors, Peter Salovey of Yale and John D. Mayer of UNH. While some popular definitions focus on qualities like optimism, initiative, and self-confidence, this definition is misleading. EQ comprises skills in five areas that all require specialized communications skills, using our inner voice, outer voice or both:

  • Self-awareness
  • Self-regulation
  • Motivation (defined as “a passion for work that goes beyond money and status”)
  • Empathy for others
  • Social attunement, such as proficiency in managing relationships and building networks

What can public relations professionals do to build EQ?

From my perspective, as professional communicators we are compelled to take the lead within our organizations to create a more empowered and conscious way of being. As Ralph Waldo Emerson noted, “The institution is the lengthened shadow of one man.” Creating a healthy workplace begins by each one of us taking a leadership role within ourselves.

Here are two EQ skills to get you started.

First: Foster a Growth Mindset

When organizations and individuals become rigid and fixed, they stunt their growth. They become totally unaware that assumptions and limited perspectives are operating under the surface, sabotaging the next level of success. Check out this list and get clear about yourself. Notice when you slip into a fixed mindset. What circumstances trigger that response in you? Make a choice to adopt a growth perspective instead.

Growth Mindset
I can learn anything I want to.
When I fail, I learn.
If you succeed, I’m inspired.
My effort and attitude determine everything

Fixed Mindset
I’m either good at it or I’m not.
When I fail, I’m no good.
If you succeed, I feel threatened.
My abilities determine everything.

Second: Challenge Your Own Assumptions

As we cultivate an approach to work and life that is built on a model of personal growth, the creative center of the brain gets stimulated. When that happens, our perspective can expand and we start thinking in new ways, asking new questions, and seeing new possibilities. Think of a work challenge you’re currently facing. What assumptions are you making? What is this challenge trying to teach you? Who could you ask for a new perspective or who might be able to reflect back to you the situation as they see it?

While these skills hardly resolve all dysfunction in an organization, EQ is one of many forms of intelligence needed at every level of management. Cultivating skills in self-awareness and new ways to respond rather than being reactive creates a giant shift in corporate cultures and in the harmony of teams and work environments.

About the Author: Heathere Evans, APR, is a professional coach teaching emotional intelligence to organizations and individuals nationwide for healthier communications and more successful work environments. She is a PRSA-NCC past president and founder of IPRA and can be reached on Instagram and Twitter.

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Go for Both!

By Mitchell Marovitz, Ph.D., APR, Fellow PRSA, 2018 Chair, Universal Accreditation Board

Last week, I had the opportunity to participate in a panel discussion about the APR certification with a group of government communicators.

What a thrilling opportunity! I joined two of my colleagues, one from the Universal Accreditation Board and a second representing the National Capital Chapter, to discuss the benefits of seeking a professional certification.

It was easy for me to explain how certification made me a better, more confident communicator, giving me a proven process and access to thousands of fellow practitioners who share my passion for high quality ethical practice.

One of the attendees asked a question that really intrigued me. She wanted to know if I would recommend seeking certification instead of a master’s degree. Intriguing, because not only am I this year’s chair of the Universal Accreditation Board, I am also a college professor! Now, how to answer…

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Time To Step Up, NCC

By Samantha Villegas, APR, PRSA-NCC past president and PRSA Board member

In January, a few of my colleagues and I, who are also more senior like me, were recognized by the chapter for our contributions. It was an honor, and something I will always cherish.

My colleagues and I who received these honors do a lot for the chapter and always have. Between us, we have received more than our fair share of these awards, if that’s possible. I think it’s safe to say that service is in our DNA, but also, as senior practitioners, we each feel a deep sense of gratitude and purpose for PRSA and giving back just feels right.

But, I don’t want this award again.

Don’t get me wrong – it’s an incredible honor, and I am humbled by the recognition. Both awards I have received from the chapter have a prominent place on the bookshelf in my family room and I absolutely cherish them. What’s more, I have no plans to stop serving in whatever capacity I can to advance our mission. But, it’s time for others to be recognized.

This is not a comment on the nomination or selection process. I don’t deny we were – and are – deserving of the recognition. This is a comment on the rest of you. I don’t mean to come across harsh here. But, it’s time to step up.

When you do, here’s what I can promise: Succeed or fail, if you try and put some heart into it, you will learn. You will advance. You will make friends. Most of all, you will gain life-long, trusted colleagues who will mentor you, recommend you, and stand by you (or tell you when you need to be told that you are wrong) as my fellow award winners do with me and I love them for it. But, time is ticking, and your chance to make a difference is now.

So, step up, jump in, and really give this organization and its members the same care and attention PRSA has given you throughout your career. And, when you get the award next time, as I will be hoping you do, I’ll be in the crowd clapping loudest!

Samantha Villegas, APR is currently a national PRSA Board member. Sam was 2016 Chair of NCC’s IPRA, 2013 president of PRSA-NCC, and she served in several other capacities over the years including Mid-Atlantic District Chair, District Rep to the National Nominating Committee, Professional Advisor to GMU, Assembly Delegate, and APR Chair. She was the 2015 recipient of NCC’s Platinum Award and the 2017 recipient of the Diamond Award. 

Client on a Roll? Help Them Slow It.

I’m talking about a spokesperson being on a roll during a press interview with relevant and tangible information being rapid-fire peppered at a reporter.  Most people in leadership and subject matter experts can talk for days on their given topics, right?

That, however, doesn’t mean that they should.  In fact, it’s often counterproductive and doesn’t allow for a natural back and forth in the interview process.  As public relations pros, we need to prepare spokespeople for media interviews.

I recently interviewed a CIO for a freelance article I was writing. While he was knowledgeable and well-spoken, he truly never stopped talking.  I was struggling to keep up and capture the good points he was making in quote form.

I even asked him to slow down and repeat a key point, which he then couldn’t remember.  Not only did he not slow down his pace of speech, he also kept shooting words out fire-hose style which only made the exchange more difficult and annoying.

Effective spokespersons are true story tellers who are adept at speaking in sound-byte form – leaving time for the reporter to take good notes and either follow up or move on to their next question.  All of this takes practice AND preparation – as well as timely reminders from PR folks like us.

Not every client wants or even needs full-scale media training. If you are the one prepping a spokesperson then you can showcase your added value by some quick, ad-hoc interview prep reminders prior to an interview so they are top of mind.

Agree to get the client on the line about 10 minutes before the interview and first do a quick review of talking points and pivots for possible tough questions.  Then set them at ease and get their media “game face” on by reminding them they need to be as human as possible to maximize this opportunity for good exposure.

Basic interview tips to share:

  • Talk much slower than normal – if it sounds unnatural or strange, you’re doing it right.
  • Try to speak in three sentence increments when answering questions.
  • It helps to repeat the question to buy time to formulate a strong and concise response.
  • REMINDER: dead air is ok and don’t feel obliged to keep talking just because there is silence.
  • Avoid language like, “First of all” or “As you know…”
  • Steer clear of industry jargon and acronyms.
  • DO NOT add a new thought if a reporter asks, “Is there anything else to add?” Either emphasize your most important point or you’re all done!

If you are on the phone staffing the interview, you want to remain on the sidelines as best you can. You can interject at the end if there is something you think needs clarifying or defining if some jargon creeps into the discussion.

Securing the interview is the hard part but prepping the source so they can shine in the process is crucial to actually generating positive coverage – the ultimate goal.

By Scott Frank, President, ARGO Communications and former Senior Director, Media Relations for the American Institute of Architects

Pro Bono Call for Proposals

“Do all the good you can,
By all the means you can,
In all the ways you can,
In all the places you can,
At all the times you can,
To all the people you can,
As long as ever you can.”

  • John Wesley

 

“Do all the good you can.” A powerful and inspiring, yet simple statement.

DCAYA photo

Former PRSA-NCC pro bono client, DC Alliance of Youth Advocates (DCAYA). Pictured (L to R): JR Russ, DCAYA director of community engagement; Sabrina Kidwai, PRSA-NCC president; Lauren Lawson-Zilai, vice president and pro bono and community support committee liaison; and Maggie Riden, president and CEO of DCAYA. 

As public relations professionals, we serve as a gateway to our organizations’ audiences and the public, and hold responsibility for the brand, image and reputation of our organizations. That’s why I chose to work in the nonprofit sector — so that I can effect change for causes and organizations which have missions I feel passionate about.

In the nonprofit space, some non-traditional professional skills come into play, including “servant leadership” and caring more about what you can “give” to others than what you are going to “get” from the organization. Service to nonprofit constituents or association members demands agility, persistence and stamina within the framework of a little budget or limited capacity.

I know this from experience. My career didn’t start off in the nonprofit world. I was able to get a perspective on it by contributing to a local D.C. nonprofit through pro bono work. In the process, I garnered skills that were assets to me professionally, including event management, fundraising, partnership building and writing strategic plans. I learned valuable lessons about leading and motivating a team, holding people accountable and more. I was bolstering my understanding of how nonprofit organizations function while simultaneously making a difference in my community. It was definitely a win-win experience for me.

That’s why I am thrilled to announce that PRSA-NCC is accepting applicants for its next two-year pro bono client. Nonprofit organizations, especially those with limited staff, often have a challenge or situation to address but not the bandwidth to execute. They rely on volunteers to achieve their missions. PRSA-NCC’s pro bono and community support committee  works with its two-year, adopted client to help assess its organizational priorities and advance its goals through strategic communications in order to provide an infrastructure and foundation for the future.

The best part of this is that it is complimentary. As with my personal experience, this relationship is a win-win! Committee members give back to the community – while the nonprofit benefits from the committee’s expertise. The committee has the opportunity to get hands-on experience with an industry they may not typically be involved with, expand their networks and discover new approaches.

If you know of a nonprofit in the D.C. area that needs additional resources, encourage them to apply by midnight on Friday, February 9. And if you are a PR professional looking to give back, I encourage you to join the committee. Volunteer-based experiences are often equally as beneficial as on-the-job experiences, and the ability to articulate your role in a successful project with limited resources can speak volumes to your impact and leadership skills.

Lauren Lawson-Zilai is a vice president on the PRSA-NCC board and liaison to the pro bono committee. She previously served as chair of the pro bono committee and has also served as the international PRSA conference gala chair, the Thoth Awards Gala Chair, board director, secretary and on the membership, professional development and association/nonprofit committees.

Crisis Management in the Age of Citizen Journalism

By Aaron Ellis, Professional Development Committee co-chair

If you attended the National Capital Chapter’s “Crisis Management in the Age of Citizen Journalism” professional development event Nov. 7 at Hager Sharp in downtown Washington, you probably walked away feeling you invested your time wisely.

Brian Ellis - Padilla Executive VP, presents on crisis communications 11-7-2017For most, it was their first interaction with crisis management expert Brian Ellis. A former broadcast journalist who is now executive vice president for Minneapolis-headquartered Padilla public relations and who also teaches crisis management at Virginia Commonwealth University, Ellis’ riveting, rapid-fire lessons about responding to various crises reminded participants that advance preparation is the key to success.

In today’s age of citizen journalists, where anybody with a smart phone can record an event and post it online within minutes, the timeline as to who controls the narrative of a story has collapsed to mere minutes. That means professional communicators and the organizations they represent must anticipate questions in advance to tell their side any story, or risk losing the advantage.

According to Ellis, there are three steps for effectively communicating during a crisis:

Brian Ellis5 - Padilla Executive VP, presents on crisis communications 11-7-2017

  1. Identify what audiences want and need to know by writing out in advance the questions they are most likely to ask.
  2. Based on the anticipated questions, develop three key messages and short, memorable quotes to go with them.
  3. Practice your messages and quote(s) out loud, honing your transitions until they’re seamless.

Ellis said the key messages should focus on: a) showing compassion for those impacted; b) providing information about your organization’s crisis response plan, and c) explaining your organization’s crisis investigation and how to ensure something similar doesn’t happen again.

For his advance crisis preparation exercise, Ellis provided each table with one of three scenarios: a data breach, a criminal activity and an active shooter incident. Each table’s participants were then given a few minutes to develop a list of questions they thought they might be asked, write out three key messages and quotes to use in response, and write out four social media posts and five action steps to take from a communications perspective.

The more questions each group anticipated, the more articulate were their key messages, social posts and action steps.

“In the blame game of a crisis, the CEO will usually get fired if he or she isn’t prepared and then tries to wing it,” said Ellis. “Being unprepared is inexcusable.”

Ellis cited an example of the apology made by BP CEO Tony Hayward during the 2010 Gulf of Mexico Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion that killed 11 workers and caused the worst oil spill in U.S. history. Hayward concluded his apology by saying, “There’s no one who wants this over more than I do. I’d like my life back.”

“Few will remember (Hayward’s) apology, but everyone remembers those infamous last five words,” said Ellis. “They negated everything else he said.”

In a more recent example, United Airlines made the mistake of using the term “re-accommodate” when referring to the action the airline took in dragging a recalcitrant passenger off one its planes. “United lost $1.4 billion over that incident. They transport millions of people a year. They should have foreseen the risk and been prepared to respond appropriately,” said Ellis.

In today’s 24-hour news cycle, Ellis noted that the “media beast” must constantly be fed. To that end, he highly recommends creating a dark website that can be quickly engaged in a crisis, then reviewing and updating its content regularly. He also reminded workshop participants that an organization’s internal audiences can be either their greatest allies or worst enemies in a crisis, depending on how they are treated and kept informed.

“In a crisis, the best strategy is to always play offense and be out there telling a positive story,” he said. “By pointing your audience to what they perceive to be inside information, they’ll pay more attention to your side of the story.”

Celebration, Recognition…and a Little Dancing – PRSA-NCC’s Thoth Awards

By: Kelsey O’Planick, News Generation

The 49th Annual Thoth Awards Gala, PRSA-NCC’s premiere annual event, was a wonderful evening of networking, recognizing the strongest PR campaigns, and celebrating the Egyptian culture.

thoth-2017.jpg

The News Generation and American Psychological Association teams winning the Thoth Award in the Media Relations: Radio Campaign category.

Thoth, which is pronounced “tot,” is the ancient Egyptian god of communication. The Gala was held on Thursday, October 12, at the National Press Club. Some of the big winners include Hager Sharp, which won Best of Show, as well as Padilla, Coster Communications, Environics Communications, McCabe Message Partners, The Reis Group and Crosby Marketing Communications, just to name a few. A list of all of the winning entries can be found here.

The Gala kicked off with a traditional Egyptian dance from Mr. Mohamed Ali from Seven Egyptian Dance Troupe, included multiple videos of King Thoth (aka Danny Selnick) learning about PR in D.C., honored impressive campaigns, provided a wonderful meal, and inducted two Hall of Fame inductees, Carman Marsans and John Seng.

Guests also enjoyed a raffle, where they could enter to win items such as Apple Watches, Washington Redskins tickets, and an overnight stay in Alexandria, VA. Proceeds from the raffle benefitted the DC Alliance of Youth Advocates, PRSA-NCC’s pro bono client.

Do you still have photos or stories to share about your experience at the Gala? Use the hashtag #Thoth2017.