I’m an introvert in public relations and that’s OK

Amber Rethman

I am an introvert and I am also a public relations student. Unfortunately there seems to be a misconception that the two don’t go hand in hand.

I beg to differ.

As a young girl there was nothing I loved more than reading a good book or writing a story. I wasn’t one for big birthday parties and I dreaded answering the phone. So when I chose to enter the public relations field, notoriously known to attract charismatic extroverts, it raised a few eyebrows.

Hear me out. I’m not a shy or anti-social person; I love acting in plays and I love meeting new people. Contrary to popular belief, introverts are not poor communicators and introversion is not synonymous with shyness. As described by psychiatrist Carl Jung, the definition of an introvert is “an attitude-type characterized by orientation in life through subjective psychic contents.” In simpler terms, introverts prefer to unwind and recharge by themselves rather than by socializing [1].

Susan Cain, a TEDTalk lecturer and author, explains that introversion is not a character flaw. In fact, she points out that an estimated third to a half of the population is introverted [1]. Introverts also make excellent leaders and can be found in the highest corporate offices. According to USA Today, approximately four in ten top executives are introverted [2]. Some of history’s great leaders, including Mahatma Gandhi, Abraham Lincoln, Bill Gates, Rosa Parks, and Warren Buffett, have been described as introverts [3].

You may still doubt that someone who isn’t a natural ‘people person’ can truly succeed in public relations. There are many valuable aspects of introversion that compliment public relations roles well. For my fellow PR introverts out there, here are some potential advantages:

We’re good listeners and loyal friends. When people are really heard they feel respected and important. Introverts tend to excel in one-on-one connections and active listening [4]. We also make loyal, deep friendships that can last a lifetime. This is exactly how you build good relationships and maintain trust with clients in public relations.

We think before we speak. Introverts tend to take a little time to reflect and analyze situations before speaking up. It’s not that we don’t like to talk, we just want to have something meaningful to say. In public relations it’s important to respond strategically and thoughtfully, especially in crisis situations. We highly value preparation and prefer to express ourselves through writing [4] which is a key public relations skill.

We’re creative. Former Google CEO Eric Schmidt said that we now create more information in two days than we created from the beginning of man up until 2003. In a world saturated with information it’s hard to stand out. According to Sophia Dembling, author of The Introvert’s Way: Living a Quiet Life in a Noisy World, creativity occurs in an introverted space. Therefore introverts are often creative and in the right environment can really thrive. In public relations, a well-written press release or an eye-catching page layout can make all the difference.

We’re skilled in social media. There are plenty of opportunities for introverts to shine in public relations. The internet has given us the ability to carefully edit messages and the time to think out appropriate responses. Introverts excel in social media activities because they can communicate to many people in a more relaxed environment.

We don’t crave the spotlight. Introverts are perfectly capable of public speaking but it’s not what we prefer. There are many behind-the-scenes tasks required in public relations where we can showcase our talents. Some of the roles that best suit introverts include: organizing interviews, writing and editing, managing brand reputations, creating visual design material, and analyzing media coverage.

Being an introvert in public relations may seem like a paradox but I assure you it isn’t. I don’t want to undermine the importance of extroverts in public relations but I do want to eradicate the misconceptions surrounding introversion. I encourage you to recognize the value of introverts in any workplace. Don’t pity me for being a fish out of water in my chosen field; I’m quite happy to keep quietly swimming along.

Sources

[1] Cain, S. (2012). The power of introverts. [Video file]. Retrieved from http://www.ted.com

[2] Jones, D. (2006). Not all successful CEOs are extroverts. USA Today. Retrieved from http://usatoday.com

[3] Cain, S. (2012). The power of introverts: A manifesto for quiet brilliance. Scientific American. Retrieved from http://www.scientificamerican.com

[4] Cain, S. (2012) Quiet: The power of introverts in a world that can’t stop talking New York: Crown Publishers.