Jessica Kleiman and Meryl Weinsaft Cooper recently wrote an article for PR News titled “In Public Relations, Looks Aren’t Everything (But They Sure Can Help).” Immediately I thought of an instance a few years ago: I was car shopping, and I sat down with a sales representative at a dealership to chat. When I told her I was in public relations, she said, “You look like you’re in PR!”
I wasn’t sure what that meant, and I’m still not quite sure, but I took it as a compliment. Jessica and Meryl’s article was a good one, and I especially like this statement: “Public relations is an image business and how you look is as much your calling card as the one in your wallet.”
Public relations is all about building relationships: the word “public” encompasses fans, customers, potential customers, the media, and everyone in between. So first impressions are vital. If you can’t build a relationship based on a first impression, then it’s likely you won’t get a chance to make another impression. Building new relationships in the public relations field is like going on a new job interview each time. Early in your career, it’s hard and nerve wracking, but eventually, you become a pro and ace them all! And most important, if you’re really passionate about public relations (and if you aren’t, you shouldn’t be in the field) you begin loving the rush of the relationship building, with all its benefits and challenges.
That said, obviously, first impressions are based on a few vital things: your personal appearance, which includes clothes, hair, and accessories, all the superficial physical traits that aren’t always important, but certainly are when you’re building professional relationships. Above all, though, is the absolute necessity of having a winning personality to match a winning physical appearance. You’re a complete package. You can certainly have one without the other, but it won’t land you that amazing client or that coveted gig.
Since we’re on the topic of personal appearances, I’d like to give shoutouts to my two favorite fictional PR professionals, Sex and the City’s Samantha Jones and The West Wing’s C.J. Cregg. These ladies clearly exemplify a point the authors make in their article: you have to dress the part based on who your client is. C.J., White House press secretary, wouldn’t have worn NYC PR agency-owner Samantha’s sexy outfits, while Samantha wouldn’t be caught dead in C.J.’s conservative ensemble for her flashy, high-rolling clients.
I know, it’s fiction, but there’s still a lesson there!