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Instinct: What Public Relations Can Learn from the Wild

Animal Instinct What Public Relations Can Learn from the Wild

Note:  This is a contributed post by Samantha Virgil, an intern with NYC-based Spector PR.  

You’re absolutely in love with your dog, your pet fish or caged bird, but have you ever wondered what you can learn from animals beyond loyalty and compassion? Have you ever considered that animals have profound lessons to teach you about – your public relations career?

If not, don’t worry – we’ve done the work for you. From lovable companions inside your home to living in the wild, animals have many incredible qualities that could change your PR trajectory. Here are five – unlikely – creatures worth your admiration:

1. Pigeons: Usually seen as annoying ‘rats with wings,’ pigeons are, in fact, very intelligent. Pigeons are able to recognize the letters of the human alphabet, their reflection in mirrors and can even apply basic math. When presented with pictures of shapes, pigeons were able to arrange the pictures in order based on the number of shapes shown in the images.

For public relations professionals, pigeons provide a valuable lesson: we must be smart, not just savvy. It’s imperative to understand our clients’ products, markets and target audiences. How can a reporter grasp the sometimes difficult concepts we discuss in press releases if we don’t understand them ourselves? Mimic the pigeon, do your homework, and be smart.

2. Quokka:
Considered the happiest animal in the world, Quokkas are native to Australia and are often seen smiling. Like this lovable animal, public relations professionals must remember to smile. Talking with clients, making presentations and interacting with coworkers are some of our most common daily interactions, and putting a smile on your face shows both confidence and passion.

Smiling can create a relaxed atmosphere that clients will appreciate. It can also bring life to a presentation and increase your approachability. It’s also key when talking on the phone; even though the person on the line may not see your face, smiling can positively affect your tone. If you are having trouble smiling, check out a picture of a Quokka, whose smiles are contagious.

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 3. Baboons: They may not have access to social media, but that does not stop the baboon from forming social groups. Baboon groups can get as big as 250 members. With many members, it takes great organization to keep them all together. This brings us to lesson number three: being organized.

Organization can affect every aspect of your day. From the little things, like keeping your desk clean, to the much larger tasks, like keeping track of upcoming press releases, media opportunities and conference calls, organization keeps a PR professional ready to tackle anything. Clients appreciate organization because it shows that you take the work seriously and value their business. When juggling 250 tasks, follow the lesson of the baboon and stay organized.

4. African Grey Parrot: “Polly wants a cracker. Polly wants a cracker.” Public relations professionals should strive to be like the speaking African Grey Parrot. This parrot is no stranger to talking and repeating phrases, which is important in public relations. Being an effective communicator involves talking and giving clear explanations during presentations and when speaking to clients. Don’t be afraid to repeat an important point or emphasize something you want to get across.

Grey Parrots hardly waste a word. Their message is concise, clear and to the point. Don’t dumb down your communications with “ums” or “uhs” – you’ll bore and underwhelm your audience. Knowing what to say and how to say it is key to positive interactions and presentations. No need to memorize what to say, but like the African Grey Parrot, practice makes perfect.

5. African Elephant: Most importantly, remember to be yourself and have a thick skin. This lesson comes from the gentle giant, the African Elephant. Research shows that these elephants have unique personalities that enable the herd to function successfully. Whether you are the boss or part of the team, like the African Elephant, in order to keep the group moving forward, it is necessary to stay true to who you are. After all, often times the discriminator you’re offering to the client is, well, you. So define your values and don’t let others make those decisions for you.

Also, like an African Elephant, have a thick skin. There will be times when you are told “no.” As discouraging as that is, it’s crucial not to let it get the better of you. Having a thick skin can give you the strength to learn and move forward – and hopefully one day soon, turn that “no” into an award-winning campaign that screams “yes!”

So go ahead, be the wild, animalistic PR professional you were born to be – and maybe we’ll see you at the watering hole for PR happy hour.

* * *
Samantha Virgil is a graduate of Susquehanna University, and in her spare time loves to learn about animals, listen to music and watch reruns of the hit TV show Friends, with which she is mildly obsessed.  

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Photo credit:  Flickr, Jolene Faber, Quokka (CC BY 2.0)

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