PR & Journalism Education

Practice is Essential to Top Performance in PR

If you want to be a top performer in any area of PR, you need to have some level of natural ability. Wrong. In any area of life, when you look at top performers, you’ll find two consistent traits: they are never satisfied, and they never stop improving. If you want to be a top performer in PR, your natural ability will help. You might be creative, a great public speaker, or a gifted writer. All of this will help you succeed in PR, but the natural ability will only get you so far. Those who set aside time to practice will continually outperform those that think they already know enough.

One of the best examples of this concept is Tiger Woods. A lot of people think he was born with a natural talent. While he may have had more than his fair share of natural ability, he’s the top golfer in the world because he practices more than anyone else (and has for a very, very long time). I’m not suggesting that you dedicate 18 hours a day to getting better at what you do, but a few hours a week of practice could have a significant positive impact on your performance.

Here are some suggestions on how you can put together your own training regimen to become a top performer in what you do:

Know Your Starting Point

Take inventory of your personal S.W.O.T. (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats). Where do you currently excel in your work? There’s a good chance these are areas where you have some natural strengths. Where do you consistently feel you need to make improvements? These could be your areas of weakness (and you might never excel in these areas). Your opportunities are greatest around making your strengths stronger.

If you haven’t already, consider reader Strengthsfinder 2.0. This book encourages you to focus on your strengths (as opposed to your weaknesses) and includes a very accurate self-assessment to help you pinpoint your most dominant strengths (the areas you can gain the greatest results through focused practice and development). Personality tests can also help you hone in on your natural abilities. Continually invest time and other available resources to improve. I suggest you regularly inventory your personal S.W.O.T. and develop your own professional development or training programs to get better at what you’re good at already.

Make, Take Time to Practice

Carve some time out of your day to practice. If you’ve got a big pitch you’re working on, practice it with your peers before you dive in. Do some role-playing internally and get some feedback to make your pitch stronger. Practice the pitch until you know it inside and out. If you want to improve your writing, take on new projects that scare you to death. Practice writing faster. Practice writing more engaging content. Try to write content that generates more traffic, blog comments, tweets, etc. Use a trial-and-error approach until you hit the sweet spot.

Measure Your Performance

What gets measured gets managed, right? Try to measure your performance across all the areas you’re trying to improve in. Maybe it’s the number of placements you secure on a pitch or how many journalists you can get to listen to your pitch. Figure out how to measure what you do and set up a system to do so. This data can help provide you with an objective view of your performance and will provide the guidance you need to improve. It’s also a useful motivational strategy to keep you on track.

This is the same approach those dedicated to a fitness regimen use to keep themselves on track. If you’re constantly keeping a diary of your workouts, tracking what you eat, and measuring your time on a three-mile run, you’ll know exactly where you stand and what you need to do to improve. Use this at work, you’ll be surprised by how much more engaged and motivated you are to improve your performance.

Get a Coach

All top performers have a coach. This can be a mentor or a professor. Find somebody that’s already good at what you’re trying to do. They will know what you need to do and can help you avoid the mistakes they’ve made. Using the workout analogy again, this is like having a dedicated trainer to push you harder and help you meet your goals faster. If you’re not making progress fast enough, align yourself with a mentor. Share your goals with this person and get them on board. I’ve used “coaches” from time to time in different areas, and it’s always resulted in better outcomes than when I did things on my own. Get somebody who will be tough on you. Somebody that will kick your ass a bit. You want a top performer to help you become a top performer. Be very selective about the coach you select.

Be a Coach

On the flip side, you’re already great at something. Help somebody else take their game to the next level. Be a mentor for a junior-level peer. You’ll stay on top of your game by helping somebody else reach your level, and it will help you identify additional areas where you can continue to improve your performance. As an added benefit, when you make the people around you better, it raises the level of performance of your entire organization. It’s contagious.

Never Stop Learning

So many people are happy to throw an “expert” title in their bio. The real experts are those that never stop learning. Make a conscious effort to learn whenever you can. Listen to books on your commute, read the latest case studies and research reports, and do a fair share of reading for fun. The most successful people in the world never stop learning. Maybe you’re one of these people. If not, what can you learn today that will take you one step closer to being a top performer? Get started today.

Just as you don’t go to the store, buy a set of golf clubs and book a tee time, you can’t expect to be great at what you do right out of the box. You need to practice. You need repetition and coaching. If you make a concentrated effort to improve, you will. You might not be the best in the world when it’s all said and done, but you might also be better than anybody you know. What do you have to lose?

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