The following is a guest post by the previous Editor of Women Grow Business, Shonali Burke.
What’s the most important public relations initiative to embark on? Your relationship with YOU.
Why do business owners especially need to be concerned with this relationship? We’ll come back to that in a moment. Let’s look at some recent events to give the issue context.
This year’s White House Correspondents Dinner may have been a hilarious occasion, but for at least one female professional, it was an occasion of mortification and then, of validation.
“We Have to be Extra Careful with ‘You All’ “
If you haven’t done so as yet, I strongly suggest you read (Dr.) Seema Jilani’s Huffington Post account of how she was treated at this nationally-observed and televised occasion. Here’s an excerpt of what she was told by the security personnel who barred her – but not other Caucasian women, who also didn’t have tickets for the actual dinner – from reaching her husband when she tried to retrieve her keys (her husband was attending the actual dinner following the cocktail hour, which they both attended):
“When I asked why the security representatives offered to personally escort white women without tickets downstairs while they watched me flounder, why they threatened to call the Secret Service on me, I was told, ‘We have to be extra careful with you all after the Boston bombings.’ “
Of the many insidious phrases that pervade our language, “you all” might be at the top of the list. I don’t think it is used by any one race at the expense of others; but it is one of those heartrending phrases that firmly plant a wall between the parties concerned.
Public relations and relationships with our publics
When we talk about “public relations,” we so often talk about, and work on, building relationships with the media so that they are more prone to tell the stories at hand (ours, or our clients’/organizations’).
If you buy into the concept of Social PR (and I hope you do, because that’s one of the most exciting developments PR has seen in a long time), then you know how important it is to build relationships with your “social” publics… the people you meet on social networks, who have the potential to become community members, or supporter, or maybe even evangelists and champions.
What about the most important “P” in “public relations”… the “P” that belongs to you, the Person at hand?
What is your relationship with you?
Dr. Jilani’s post has stirred several emotions, and what it stirred in me was the realization that, as a woman of color who has worked hard for whatever she has achieved, being apologetic is no longer an option.
I’m not going to apologize for being different, or speaking differently, or looking different, than anyone else. If ignorance is at hand, it is not my business to eradicate it; rather, I expect that those who are ignorant strive to educate themselves, just as I did, and have done over the past 13-odd years as I have adjusted to life in the U.S.
In other words, I have become comfortable in my own skin. And that skin is not something I am going to apologize for any more. I am happy with Me. This wasn’t always the case and sure, some days Me could use a latte or two, but overall, Me is someone I like, and want to get to know better, and want to (continue to) do business with.
Can you say the same about you?
Because, you see, if you aren’t comfortable with You, aka your own Me, then it doesn’t matter how polished a front you portray to the world. Until you are comfortable with You, I’ll wager that the business relationships you’ll embark on are fragile and, perhaps, ephemeral.
Because they are not built with the person that is You; they are built on an illusion of You. And though the illusion of You might be Wonder Woman incarnate, it is just not as comforting as the real You, aka your own Me.
And you might do fine if you are able to keep the illusion going… but my guess is that after a point, it will be just too exhausting to continue to do so. And then… what happens then to the business relationships you have built on the illusion of You?
So do yourself a favor.
Don’t get so caught up in how to market, what to market, when to market, why to market, and all the other elements that marketers and public relations professionals will tell you are oh-so-important.
They are important… but what’s most important is to define, and be comfortable with, your relationship with You. And that means learning things like when to say “yes,” and when to say “no,” and everything in between.
Because it’s only then that You can start to build, and maintain, meaningful relationships with the rest of the world… including those that will lead to strong, self-sustaining business.
Shonali Burke is the former editor of Women Grow Business. Named to PRWeek’s inaugural top “40 Under 40″ list of US-based PR professionals, she is considered one of 25 women that rock social media.
As President & CEO, Shonali Burke Consulting, Inc., she turns your corporate codswallop into community cool. An accredited business communicator, she is also Adjunct Faculty at Johns Hopkins University’s M.A. in Communication program, and a Past President of IABC/DC Metro. Talk to her via her blog, Waxing UnLyrical, or Twitter.