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I recently wrote a book on public relations (PR) called PR Yourself: Red Lipstick and Amazing Shoes, which focused very much on small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and entrepreneurs, and how they need to get heard in the media.
However, this led me to think about how we should PR ourselves as individuals. When we think of branding ourselves, we normally think of the usual but vital means such as LinkedIn.
In today’s viral world of social media, pictures of yourself do spread like wildfire, whether they are good or bad; more so if they are bad!
Maybe I’m old-fashioned but nothing beats the word of mouth to promote you. During my early days when I was busy looking for work, I applied to several PR companies. I remember it was down to two offers which I was most keen on and in the end I decided to take the job with an international PR agency.
Obviously (and sometimes I hear it’s not so obvious these days), I called the other PR agency to decline the offer even though I really liked the people behind the organisation.
If I wasn’t given the other offer, this would definitely be the preferred choice. I then decided to write a letter as well (yes, you can send an email nowadays) to say “thank you” for the opportunity, and to hope that our paths would cross again one day.
It must have been a big deal for them then to have received a letter thanking them especially since I had already called.
The head of the PR agency then wrote me a very sweet letter wishing me the best in all my future endeavours. What came out of it? Nothing really. But maybe down the road it will result in something, who knows?
Be mindful of your words
When you’re just starting out in your career, it is really your word that is the most valuable asset. Let your “yes” be “yes” and your “no” be “no”. You may have co-curricular activities and job experiences to your name, and you’re able to present yourself well – but when it comes to references, will they be saying the same things about you?
A few years ago, we had an intern working for us. She seemed bright-eyed and bushy-tailed but she could not complete the work for the day. When asked how we could help her, she said it was not a problem. Yet, her work could not be completed. She seemed to be in denial.
She would claim for 10 hours of work on a daily basis and would spend ages during lunch. I had a simple request that if she did leave, she would give us a week’s notice, to which she agreed.
Guess what? She decided to leave on New Year’s eve and said that her last day would be the day after. The only relief we had was that we did not hire her.
The irony was that when she left a few months later, she asked me to be her referee. The kindest thing I could do was to decline because I wouldn’t have had the kindest words.
Secondly, I would not stake my reputation to someone who cannot keep her word. At the end of the day, it’s the little things that will amount to the big things.
Lao Tzu’s famous words were: “Watch your thoughts; they become words. Watch your words; they become actions. Watch your actions; they become habit. Watch your habits; they become character. Watch your character; it becomes your destiny.”
In your heart of hearts, you know the right thing to do. If you don’t, seek counsel from people you admire for career steps and the proper etiquette you should take.