Perhaps not surprisingly, I’ve received plenty of good-natured advice from fellow adept PR professionals who happen to be extroverts – that I should make more small talk, speak out more in meetings, speak louder, socialise more and pick up the phone more.
To be seen, to be heard, to be known and to build those ever-important relationships that the industry was founded on.
I often try to heed this advice. I believe we should all push ourselves to step out of our comfort zones, not just in work but in life.
That said, I don’t think I have ever advised an extroverted colleague to make less small talk.
I think the PR industry undervalues introverts. Said another way: an entire industry undervalues more than one third of the world’s population. This makes little business sense.
Introverts, like extroverts, are an asset in any team, company or industry.
We already know diversity in the workforce is proven to lead to better business outcomes. More creativity, more strategic thinking, more empathy. That diversity applies to personality types, too.
When it comes to PR in particular, these are some reasons why the industry should value its introverts more:
We are excellent listeners
We have no desire to be the loudest people in the room. We are calm and comfortable observers. Because we’re not busy talking, we pick up more non-verbal cues, such as body language, which is said to make up more than 70 per cent of communication. Not something to be overlooked.
We’re all about quality over quantity
We won’t make small talk with every new person we meet (yikes), nor will we seize every coffee, lunch or networking opportunity to meet new people. However, by listening, observing and reflecting, we will recognise the most strategic networking opportunities and introduce ourselves to the right person in the room. What’s more, we’ll have given a lot of thought to what to say to that person. We’ll then throw everything we have into nurturing that encounter into a long-term, mutually beneficial relationship.
You can rely on us for complex problem-solving
In-depth media analysis, new-business research, distilling complex technical information into accessible messaging… PR often requires us to block ourselves off from distraction for hours at a time and analyse dense, expansive materials, aiming to come out the other side with engaging and interesting insights that will capture consumer or media attention. Introverts are analytical, thorough and have no problem with solitary problem-solving.
Introverts aren’t shy, nervous or intimidated
We’re not quiet because we’re overwhelmed, nor are we waiting for you to take our hand and lay out the magical steps to extroversion. We do need time alone to regroup and re-energise. We do get tired in large groups or social settings that we don’t consider to be of value. But we are listening to everything you’re saying and notice everything you’re not saying, too. We are thorough, analytical and thoughtful and we will identify every possible 'What if?' scenario for any given situation. We’ll be prepared, we’ll be strategic and we’ll be observant – always looking for opportunities to improve.
We can’t do it alone, though. We need our extrovert colleagues to bring out the best in us, as we strive to bring out the best in them.
So, we just ask that you value us as much as you value them.
A proud PR introvert