Some of the things we ask our clients to do can be quite emotionally demanding – from standing on stage for a speaker slot to being interviewed by a journalist. Of course, as PR professionals, we can advise on the technicalities, such as how to respond to particular styles of questions or how to convey complex messages with clarity.
But sometimes the support needed is of a more fundamental psychological level. It is about learning to acquire the confidence to face a new or unexpected challenge.
The PRCA recently ran a course on how to build assertiveness and confidence, and the advice given would be just as useful for clients as it is for people working in PR.
Our brains still very much respond with a primal ‘fight or flight’ response when faced with perceived danger. This can manifest itself in negative or overly emotional thoughts in stressful situations.
One way of addressing this is to take control of your ‘inner’ mental game. It helps to try labelling any unhelpful thoughts and putting a more positive spin on them so that, for example, ‘I’m feeling stressed’ is turned into ‘this is a great opportunity’.
As well the ‘inner game’ of confidence, there’s the ‘outer game’ to consider. This is about how others experience your outward behaviour.
Subtle, conscious changes to body language – such as placing your hands palm down on a table when seated or adopting a wider stance when standing – can create a greater feeling of assertiveness.
We are often asked to respond quickly to situations where we don’t have all the information required. A useful solution to this is using the ‘I don’t know’ formula.
This breaks a response to a question into three parts – “here’s what we do know”, “here’s what we don’t know”, and “here’s how we’ll get the answer”. Applying this principle will ensure greater control and confidence when addressing unexpected queries.