Stephen Covey’s seminal work The 7 Habits of Highly Successful People has been in my library for over a decade. If you haven’t read it, it’s a must read. And it’s timeless.
The seven habits are applicable to anyone, and for public relations professionals, they are particularly helpful in our work with journalists, clients and the public. Here are ways you can apply Covey’s proven 7 Habits to your PR work.
First, an overview of the habits:
Habit 1: Be Proactive
Take initiative in life by realizing that your decisions (and how they align with life’s principles) are the primary determining factor for effectiveness in your life. Take responsibility for your choices and the consequences that follow.
Habit 2: Begin with the End in Mind
Self-discover and clarify your deeply important character values and life goals. Envision the ideal characteristics for each of your various roles and relationships in life. Create a mission statement.
Habit 3: Put First Things First
Prioritize, plan, and execute your week’s tasks based on importance rather than urgency. Evaluate whether your efforts exemplify your desired character values, propel you toward goals, and enrich the roles and relationships that were elaborated in Habit 2.
Habit 4: Think Win-Win
Genuinely strive for mutually beneficial solutions or agreements in your relationships. Value and respect people by understanding a “win” for all is ultimately a better long-term resolution than if only one person in the situation had gotten his way.
Habit 5: Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood
Use empathic listening to be genuinely influenced by a person, which compels them to reciprocate the listening and take an open mind to being influenced by you. This creates an atmosphere of caring, and positive problem solving.
Habit 6: Synergize
Combine the strengths of people through positive teamwork, so as to achieve goals no one person could have done alone.
Habit 7: Sharpen the Saw
Balance and renew your resources, energy, and health to create a sustainable, long-term, effective lifestyle.
The Seven Habits Applied to PR
Habit 1 – Be Proactive
Applicable especially to client relationships and business development. As Angelique Rewers of the Corporate Agent says “Sell to the Spark.”
Spark events are changes, decisions and activities within an organization, or in the market or industry in general, that can create an immediate need or desire for your service offerings. Contacting a potential client when it coincides with an appropriate spark event can create just the window of opportunity you need in order to grab the prospect’s attention and also dramatically shorten the sales cycle. – The Corporate Agent 2012
Selling to the spark is the ultimate embodiment of the “Be Proactive” habit applied to business development. Instead of waiting for an opportunity to emerge, smart PR pros create opportunities.
Habit 2 – Begin with the End in Mind
Applied to strategy, this habit is particularly important one planning a campaign or PR program. Before you develop media target or desired outcomes, it is important to understand the overall goals of the client. What do they hope this program achieves for the overall business or organization? Is this program helping to drive fundraising, increase sales, or increase overall brand awareness? Understanding be in goal helps with the planning process.
Habit 3 – Put First Things First
Every day a public relations professional’s calendar is full with competing priorities. It is important early in one’s career to learn how to prioritize what tasks are truly important and must be tackled first.
Habit 4 – Think Win/Win
When ever you are trying to establish partnerships of any kind in PR you must think win-win. The road to successful community and corporate partnerships, sponsorships, media placements, fundraising success, and general success of any kind within PR is paved with mutually beneficial relationships. Before you ask a potential partner to do something on either your or your client’s behalf think how can this partnership be beneficial to both them and to us.
Habit 5 – Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood
This habit is a great one to put into practice when you’re working with journalists. When I was working in the newsroom at the Washington City Paper, I would often get pitches from well-meaning PR specialists who didn’t understand my beat or interests. I was hungry for great stories – I always had to feed the news beast. But despite my desire to take my editor 5-6 viable story ideas each week, I often found myself with an inbox full of pitches that weren’t a good fit for our paper.
If you are pitching a journalist, before picking up the phone or sending that email, it is important to know what types of stories they are looking for. With the internet, this is easier than ever. It takes but a moment to do a Google search on your reporter’s past coverage.
So try to understand the reporter’s interests then try to get a sense of their schedule so you know their needs. Most reporters are on deadline from mid-morning to late afternoon, so if you want to get them on the phone, early in the morning or later in the evening could work.
Habit 6 – Synergize
When it comes to PR it truly takes a village. Think of the last major successful event, campaign, or initiated that you witnessed. Think of the last successful campaign that you pulled off yourself. Chances are, you relied on the talent of many to make your vision a reality. Particularly in a collaborative field like public relations where you are asked the win of the public, the media, potential partners and sponsors, it takes the efforts of many to make something spectacular happen.
Habit 7 – Sharpen the Saw
In the age of social media, a public relations professional must always be looking for ways to add new skills to his or her toolkit. Learning doesn’t end in the classroom, and the field is ever changing. A decade ago, Twitter and Facebook didn’t exist. Yet now they are mainstay tools of communication. Commit yourself to lifelong learning, and understand that there is always more to learn. And you’re never too much of an expert to learn something new.