Smart companies understand that a positive public image is no accident. They must make PR a proactive part of company strategy by establishing, communicating, and nurturing the image they want to present. This is why most companies have either an internal public relations department or use an outside public relations firm.
Why is it any different for you as an individual? It is important that we consider how others view us, both inside and outside of our companies, and what we can do to influence that view. When IT professionals are being pink-slipped in record numbers, how you are perceived can mean the difference between keeping your job and losing it.
A key element to a good public relations plan is getting noticed. Here are some practical lessons you can use to influence how you are viewed by others. Each one of these techniques can increase your exposure, which can produce enhanced respect, new job assignments, a promotion, or even a new job.
Lesson one: How do you want to be perceived?
Let’s look at how companies approach PR. First, most companies identify the image they want to project. Do they want to be perceived as innovative, reliable, cost-effective, or customer focused?
If that sounds like a mission statement, it should. Good marketing programs are consistent with, and grow from, the company’s stated mission.
Do you have a personal mission statement? As an individual, you should have a specific idea of how you want to be perceived. Some of the attributes listed above will also apply to individuals.
Your personal mission statement should be brief and specific: “I will energetically apply my strategic planning abilities to the betterment of my employer” is one example.
From that, you should build a list of corollaries that outline the specific attributes you want to have recognized. Make sure that they are realistic and achievable—just stating them does not make them so. Good corollaries include the following factors:
- Aligned with company objectives
Your mission statement and its corollaries can guide you in determining whether the activities and behaviors you exhibit each day contribute to or detract from the image you are looking to project.
Lesson two: Toot your own horn
Most of us are not accustomed to self-promotion. We have been told that we should modestly go about our jobs and that performance will be recognized on its own merits. In general, I believe this to be true. However there are practical, subtle ways to promote yourself.
When you do something that is consistent with your list of attributes, communicate it. For example, if one of your attributes is timeliness, then when you complete a key deliverable, send out an e-mail detailing the completion to those who are interested. Of course, this doesn’t mean that you should send out an e-mail to your entire contact list every time you cross an item off of your to-do list. The key is to communicate significant events or activities to those people who are either concerned with the activity or with your personal performance.
One successful professional I know has a very subtle tool. She uses a white board in her office to record her major priorities but makes sure that she always has a few on the list that are checked as complete. This helps people who come to her office understand not only what projects she has on her plate, but also gives her visitors an idea of her recent priorities. The subtle impact is that you always have the sense that she is organized and effective.
Lesson three: Use e-mail for personal PR
Closely connected to lesson two is your use of e-mail as a communications tool. E-mail is a powerful way to increase your exposure at a very low personal cost. Regular, brief (one- to two-sentence) updates via e-mail to a larger audience are much more effective than rambling status reports that are distributed to a smaller group, especially if the updates are distributed as hard copy.
Keep in mind that, in most companies, people like to be kept “in the loop” even if they are not directly involved in a project. You increase your stature if you communicate effectively.
Lesson four: Volunteering equals positive exposure
One easy way to increase your profile is to volunteer for assignments before they are assigned. When done correctly, you plant the image that you are a “go-getter.” The danger here is that you will be perceived as a “teacher’s pet” (or worse) by your coworkers.
There are myriad opportunities to volunteer in just about any organization. Opportunities include volunteering for charity work, such as the United Way campaign committee, offering to take a visiting dignitary to dinner, or volunteering to coordinate the company golf outing.
Lesson five: Speak up
Take advantage of every opportunity you have to speak. I’m not advocating standing up and making a prepared speech (although there is a time and place for that as well), but you should vocalize your thoughts and opinions in meetings, even if it’s just to agree. People who can eloquently but succinctly state their opinions in a meeting environment are perceived as performers, while those who sit quietly often go unnoticed, no matter how strong a performer they are back at their desk.
Final exam: Long term benefits
These tips will not guarantee you a promotion. In fact, indiscriminate application of these concepts will probably have you branded as an arrogant loudmouth. But careful management of how you present yourself and the work that you do will have long-term benefits. The key is in visioning how you want to be perceived, then making sure that you project an image that matches that vision.
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