Etiquette is a topic that impacts our future as public relations and business professionals, but it is not a popular discussion topic. I recently had the privilege of attending a workshop that highlighted the positives and negatives of this not-so-popular subject. I quickly learned that if we do not practice good manners, we cannot successfully fulfill our duties as public relations professionals.
University of Iowa’s PRSSA Chapter recently hosted “Establishing Brand You.” One of the breakout session presenters was Luann Alemao, who specializes in leadership, food and nutrition counseling, image and etiquette. Through Alemao’s expertise, every student in the room learned a plethora of information that will undoubtedly benefit the way we conduct ourselves in our professional career.
Kindness matters. Manners and finesse will progress your professional career faster than your education or professional experiences, and they provide stability. People with manners are efficient. They are courteous and have confidence handling life’s experiences. They are more pleasant to be around and they are rarely awkward. If you are in a situation in which someone does not have good manners, do not point out their flaws. Instead, be gracious and be the model.
It is all about your handshake. Dr. Gregory Stewart from the University of Iowa suggests that a person’s handshake “is one of the few interview components that are unique to you. It is an impression to remember.” Make eye contact, but be aware of cultural norms, give two or three pumps during the handshake and be assertive, confident and memorable in your introduction. In Alemao’s words, “Grip, Grin and Greet.” In this same realm, it is important to have your elevator pitch memorized and well rehearsed so that it seems natural when an opportunity arises to use it.
Recognize and respect people with disabilities. Did you know people with disabilities make up 39.3 percent of the workforce? It is imperative to put people before their disability. If you are unable to shake the hand of a person with a disability, it is appropriate and acceptable for you to touch their shoulder to make physical contact. Also, do not stand in front of people who are in wheelchairs and have a conversation. Instead, find a chair to sit in so you are face-to-face with them. Your nonverbal communication will indicate that you care about them and have genuine interest in what they say.
The one piece of advice that really stuck with me is one of Alemao’s slogans, “Good things do not happen to those who wait. Good things happen to those who initiate.” As public relations students and future professionals, it is part of our nature to be personable, friendly and professional. In order to ensure a successful career, we must practice etiquette and act with superb manners. On that note, let the etiquette begin!
How have manners helped you in your public relations journey?
This is a guest post from FORUM Editor in Chief Kara Robinson.