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The Road to PR Leadership

By Jimmy Minichello
February 17, 2013

Sharing real-life examples about pressing management challenges in the public relations industry, communications officers at all levels gathered to learn insights on making the successful transition from PR manager to PR leader.

PRSA-NCC’s half-day workshop on enhancing leadership skills was presented by Jeff Ghannam, president of Crystal Communications and Marketing, on Wednesday, February 13. Hosted by the American Islamic Congress in Washington, D.C., the event drew about 30 attendees seeking to take their careers to the next level.

“At the end of the day, we’re not really there to earn a paycheck,” Ghannam told the audience. “We’re there because we believe in the mission of the organization we work in. We believe in the clients we serve. If a leader does not instill that from Day one forward, that presents a problem.”

Leadership qualities discussed during the session included:   

  • Mission and vision driven;
  • Transformational;
  • Effective—get things done;
  • Skillful communicator;
  • Listens, considers input and builds consensus;
  • Committed to the job;
  • Good interpersonal skills;
  • Ethical, straight forward and worthy of respect;
  • Role model, leads by example.

“A manager is more tactical, short-term and process oriented, which is very important in terms of the operations of an organization,” noted Ghannam, a previous chapter president. “A leader is more strategic, a long-term visionary and a motivator of people. None of us is as smart as all of us. That’s because together we can achieve so much more than we can as individuals.”

Additional leadership themes discussed during the presentation including:

  • Self-awareness: Do you know your strengths and weaknesses? How are you perceived by others? A good manager looks in the mirror first.
  • Work/life balance strategies: Get organized. Take advantage of work schedule options. Reward—and forgive—yourself. Learn to strategically say no.
  • How to delegate: Explain why the task needs to be done. What is the desired outcome or deliverable? What are the guidelines (but not explicit directions) for how the delegatee should go about performing the task?
  • Better listening: Make the decision to talk less. Avoid thinking about what you’re going to say next. Stop doing other things – all other things – while someone is speaking to you.
  • Dealing with the problem person: Deal with the issue head on. It is better to air concerns than to let them fester. Speak to the person calmly, politely and rationally. Focus on the situation and facts, avoid gossip, and personal attacks.
  • Motivating people: Praise, thank and recognize the employee for a job well done—or even partially well done. Care about them professionally. Add variety to a person’s job. Treat everyone equally. Don’t play favorites with staff.    
  • Manage up: Look for opportunities to make your manager’s life easier. Identify and solve problems. Don’t overreact to boss’s comments.
  • Become budget savvy: Show that you understand and appreciate the bottom line and can provide a return on investment for your PR activities.

Ghannam concluded the session by challenging attendees to work on their respective skills and weaknesses. “You will be a happier, more fulfilled person that will be respected, recognized and rewarded,” he said.

“Jeff provided great perspective that isn’t necessarily taught,” said one attendee following the conclusion of the presentation. “The session offered a structured set of core values that often get overlooked.”

See more event photos.

Jimmy Minichello is a senior communications strategist who provides a variety of services, strategic counsel and media guidance on behalf of clients in the public, private and non-profit sectors whose supporters and stakeholders reach worldwide. Previously, he was the media relations director with the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards in Arlington, Va. A former broadcast journalist, Jimmy served in anchor-reporter roles with NBC Radio, the United Press International Radio Network and a host of local stations. Jimmy also produces the video blog, PR XTRA.