The importance of being appropriate in any setting

4 Aug 2017
Adrian Lo

Oscar Wilde once wowed the world with his play The Importance of Being Earnest. For me, the biggest takeaway was simple and direct, stated in the title and quoted in one of the final lines of the main character John Worthing: being earnest is of vital importance. Yet in the world of PR, merely being earnest may not get you far – but being appropriate in any setting is indeed key in an industry that values effective communication. In this piece I am going to share some thoughts on how to be ‘appropriate in any setting, because the small things actually matter.

So, first of all, what is ‘appropriate’? In dictionary terms, it’s being ‘suitable or right for a particular situation or occasion’. In the PR world, our job nature is diverse as we are in different situations interacting with people from various background every single day. The ability to identify the ‘right’ things to do in a swift and natural manner can help facilitate the work process, so you’ll be getting tasks done seamlessly. Although doing the right things varies depending on the context, there are some generic rules that you can follow to make life ‘easier’.

Dress to impress
Remember: first impressions matter. As a PR pro you may have to meet new clients or media contacts on a regular basis, and the way you dress can show who you are in a blink. It’s always good to show your personality through your outfit, and always remember to stay within the scope of business or smart casual attire. You can make your statement through the colour of the outfit you choose, and this can even go back to a particular client – you could dress in ‘fresh’ colours, for example, if you represent a health-related client.

Watch your words
Actions do speak louder than words, but don’t forget the words you say can also make a great impact (or an impact that’s not so great). Always remember to say the right words to the right people – this doesn’t necessarily mean you are cunning and dishonest, but getting the right messages across is essential. Sometimes it takes some learned speaking skills to excel. Confidentiality is also something that one has to bear in mind – in the PR world we face so many stakeholders that holding confidential materials or information is inevitable. Knowing how to keep our lips closed when being asked about confidential matters is a non-negotiable.

And mind your manners
Knowing your do’s and don’ts across different social settings is also essential. The list is by no means exhaustive though, and can range from making the most effective pitching call to knowing when it’s okay to take a selfie. The key always is to be thoughtful and considerate with other people’s perspectives – how this would affect others when you perform a certain way? Always think before acting. This is when your experience is precious.

In an industry like PR with so many moving parts, it’s important to be able to stay in control and know how to act in any setting. Staying sharp in this sense could even be the difference between winning an account or not.

From the way you dress to the way you talk, remember to act appropriately in every setting

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