23 Mar 2015

The importance of emotional intelligence in PR

Jessica Hammonds – Account Executive at Spreckley

Fairly new to the PR industry, I have seen my fair share of job descriptions stating the skills and qualities that PR companies are looking for in a successful candidate. Often these include skills such as listening, strong written and verbal communication skills, and a good eye for detail.

However, an increasing number of employers are placing greater emphasis on candidates being emotionally intelligent. Emotional Intelligence (EI) is defined as “the capacity to be aware of, control and express one’s emotions, and to handle interpersonal relationships empathetically”. Traditionally, IQ has been seen as the main indicator for success but research by Downey, Lee and Stough (2011) into IQ and EI has found that it is the latter which is the key factor to success and sets successful people apart from others.

To some extent, all communication has emotional connotations and as such EI is vital to PR professionals who are constantly interacting with wide and varied groups of people. With this in mind, most experts in EI believe that there are a number of key traits, which are vital to all PR professionals. They are:

  • Self awareness: this trait focuses on an individuals ability to perceive and recognise their own emotions. In PR, it is particularly important to stay cool and keep check of emotions, however extreme the situation. If a PR professional was to loose their temper, it would reflect badly not only on themselves but also on the company and their client and could lead to a widespread media backlash.
  • Knowing your own strengths and weaknesses: in being self-aware, individuals with a high EI are also acutely aware of their own strengths and weaknesses. Not only does this mean that people know how to use their strengths to their full advantage, it also prevents weaknesses holding them back.
  • Articulating emotions: according to TalentSmart, an organisation that specialises in EI, only 36% of individuals are able to identify and articulate their emotions effectively. Individuals with high EI are able to do this effectively because they have a robust emotional vocabulary and can pinpoint their exact feelings rather then simply “good”, “bad” or “OK”.
  • Adaptability: Public relations is an incredibly fast-paced and ever-changing industry and thus, an individual has to be adaptable and efficient. Research published by Coetzee and Harry (2014) have linked high EI to individuals who have being able to adapt to changing circumstances, often at very short notice.
  • Learning how to say ‘No’: research published by the University of California, San Francisco, found that the more difficulty a person had saying no, the more likely they were to experience stress, burnout and depression. Experts in EI believe that the ability to say no is linked to exerting self-control and ensuring that you are able to complete existing projects successfully.
  • Relationship management: this trait is described as “the ability to use the awareness of emotions to manage interactions”. Not only does this incorporate the way that PR professionals connect with clients and the media but also the ability to be a good judge of character. Knowing what makes people tick and understanding their circumstances enables PR professionals to maintain a successful relationship with all stakeholders.