A few days ago I posted some thoughts on how a new generation of PR professionals is raising the bar for us all, and it’s gotten some nice traction. Particularly from those just starting out in their careers — grateful, as one put it in a private Tweet, “not to be completely dissed.”
However, in the same discussion, some have raised a counterpoint related to the evolution of a more established cadre of professionals, those who entered the business in its pre-digital days (which would include me).
Certainly, there is a surge of seasoned pros with a compelling blend of experience and transformation, combining wisdom accrued through hard knocks with a willingness to embrace new (even uncomfortable) ways of practicing the PR craft. So many, in fact, I have been able to discern a few behaviors that I think correlate with a high likelihood of success in our rapidly changing world.
Here’s how seasoned pros are changing with the times:
1. They recognize the difference between experience and seniority. Experience carries a premium, as it should. There is value in what they know and how to apply it to communications challenges – they can avoid past mistakes, get to solutions faster and see creative possibilities in ways that the less practiced may not notice. The value of seniority, however, is rapidly diminishing. Simply occupying more time in the saddle than others has little or no usefulness, unless they can translate it into meaningful experience – which may or may not take years to accumulate.
2. They are digital émigrés. Born perhaps too late to qualify as digital natives, they nonetheless embrace the possibilities (and changes) afforded by digital technology and social media. They experiment with new platforms, engage with communities connected to their personal and professional lives, and make a genuine effort to stay current.
3. They allow their worldviews to expand, evolve and connect. Many of them moved up over the years mastering a specific area of knowledge in PR – an industry sector (in my case, it was initially healthcare), a certain set of services (say, media training) or a geographic market or sphere of activity (France, for example, or the ‘inside the Beltway’ scene in Washington). Over time, the successful professional sees wider patterns of connectivity between knowledge areas, and the enormous potential of intentionally drawing them together to solve a problem. So rather than ‘protecting’ their own turf, they look for ways to expand it by connecting with others.
4. They are generous. Certainly this applies to successful PR professionals regardless of how many years they’ve been in the business, but generally those with a few more years under their belts have more to be generous with – experience, connections, perspective, etc. And those willing to share, both with each other and those a little newer to the game, seem to have an advantage over those who don’t. Call it karma, common sense or coincidence, but I see strong correlation between generosity and success.
5. They are as eager to learn as they are to teach. Most of them are willing to show the ropes to those starting out, and to share best practices with colleagues or even competitors, in some settings. But those mostly likely to thrive, I believe, are those who are also ready, willing and able to learn – to be taught – by those who may have a fraction of their experience (click to tweet). It’s one thing if you limit this to skills (I’ve had to ask “how to do the SnapChat” before) but it’s bit more challenging to consent to learning new ways of thinking, solving problems and communicating from a “younger” generation. The best approach here is to simply suck it up and soak it all in.