The Cross-Cutting Intangible We All Need To Master: Improving People Skills

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How we are treated by others is an intangible we all notice and remember. Those of us who teach and learn in the WVU IMC program should strive to set the bar higher with our people skills and integrate this valuable philosophy into all of our courses – both personally and professionally.

I was reminded this week of the importance people play in communications and advocacy by some colleagues in the profession. I host the monthly in-person meetings of the PRSA-National Capital Chapter Professional Development Committee at our downtown Washington, D.C. Asher Agency office. A dozen of us from all walks of life in PR were brainstorming topics for upcoming panel discussions we host, and an enlightened colleague suggested a session on how to improve relationships and marketing/communications objectives by honing our people skills. This is something that has been at the top of my mind for a long time, and I quickly seconded the idea.

The response was unanimous from the group, which included both women and men, young and old, as well as junior account executives and senior vice presidents. I was more than heartened to have my colleagues confirm the need to elevate people above technology, data and dollars.

We live in a world of persuasion and passion, and person-to-person communications from a trusted source – or word of mouth marketing — is hard to beat.

When we think about the importance of people and how we act toward our colleagues and strangers each day, we are reminded that we can and should do a better job with our people skills and offer comfortable scenarios for communicating more effectively.

Recently I needed to update a list of Congressional staffers who handle health and nutrition and I ran into a brick wall.  When you call a U.S. Senator these days, you get a recording of the Senator (the system is paid for with taxpayer dollars) thanking you for calling to share your viewpoint. It is nearly impossible to get through to a staff person; instead, they want you to leave a message and go away.  Luckily, the U.S. House members still have a person answering their phones and responding to specific questions related to Congressional business.

I hear more and more stories of bosses who write an email to say thank you, good work or offering feedback to a team member two doors away in the office. How much more effective if would be for that leader to get out of his chair to personally visit with his colleague and offer constructive feedback. And, maybe take time to ask about the new home, well-being of their children or about hobbies.

I love how technology has significantly improved communications and advocacy effectiveness and outcomes. But I also need to be reminded of the value in conveying information in person, writing a personal note, sending a thoughtful gift to mark a special occasion and joining people for breakfast, coffee, lunch or a drink after work.

Both personally and professionally, we all need to remember people are at the heart of our true success.

The one intangible we all need to master is improving our people skills!


Mike Fulton directs the Washington, D.C. office of the Asher Agency (www.asheragency.com) and teaches Public Affairs IMC 638 in West Virginia University’s Integrated Marketing Communications program.

Connect with Mike at cmfulton@mix.wvu.edumfulton@mix.wvu.edu>; @hillrat1156 or on LinkedIn.

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