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November 9, 2014 / Stephanie Vermillion

Five Must-Have PR Traits You Can Learn From Your Dog

Five Must-Have PR Traits You Can Learn From Your DogYes, it goes without saying, but dogs are just plain awesome. They’re good listeners, happy greeters, selfless friends and loyal, genuine companions.

But did you know man’s best friend can be more than a loving pet? When it comes to PR, dogs are some of the best – and most adorable – teachers around.

The skills they teach aren’t typically found in textbooks, but they’re valuable life lessons every PR pro, and pretty much every individual out there, needs to succeed. Here are five must-have PR traits I’ve learned from my 20-pound fluff ball, Harry.

1. Smile through everything. 

Does Harry hold grudges or complain when things don’t go as planned? Never. Sure, he may sulk in the corner if you take away a favorite bone, but he’ll quickly get over it the second you go in for a belly scratch.

As PR pros, we have to live flexibly. Things rarely go as planned, but instead of huffing and puffing about staying late to complete a project or practice a presentation, breathe, smile and focus on finishing. The typical person prefers being around pleasant people with smiles on their faces, so be that person.

And if you’re finding it extra tough to plaster a smile on your face, think of your dog. There’s no better smile stimulant than that.

2. Pick up on – and adjust to – social cues.

When I’m frustrated, stressed or unhappy, Harry picks up on it immediately and adjusts his actions accordingly. If it’s frustration, he typically keeps his distance and watches me from behind the couch. When it’s stress, he usually turns into the lap dog I need.

And when I’ve had a bad day, he becomes the most perfect cuddle monster around. (Yes, cuddle monster is a thing. It’s one of the many terms I’ve adopted as a dog mom.)

Whether you’re freelancing, working in an agency or you’re on the client side, you’ll score major points by picking up on social cues and adjusting your actions, just like Harry.

If you know your client is stressed with a major deadline separate from your work, back off a bit, streamline your emails and ask if there’s any way you can help. If you know a co-worker had a particularly tough week, pick up something nice at the store and leave it with a quick cheer up note on his/her desk. Small, thoughtful actions can go a long way in relationship building.

3. Devote your full attention to the person in front of you.

We’ve all had those conversations. You’re talking to someone and you think the conversation is going well, until you notice the person glancing at his/her watch or looking over your shoulder for someone else in the room.

That. Is. The. Worst. And it’s something your dog would probably never do.

When I’m somewhere with Harry, he pays attention to the person – or dog – he’s engaging with. If a friend is playing catch, you better believe he’s not looking for someone else to play with. If my dad is rubbing his belly, he stares him in the eyes the whole time. (True story – it’s hilarious. And adorable.)

The next time you’re at a networking event, meeting or even in the office, make sure you’re as engaged as Harry and don’t search for distractions. The other person always notices, and you’ll immediately lose their respect.

4. Make everyone feel wanted and welcomed.

Does anything beat the joy of coming home to a panting, tail-wagging pup who acts like he hasn’t seen you in months? Other than the soldier dog reunion videos (the best videos EVER made), probably not.

We love those moments because we feel wanted, special and like we belong.

To build strong relationships in the PR business with clients, colleagues, journalists, etc., you must go out of your way to make them feel special, too. For clients, it can be something as simple as sending a birthday card. For colleagues, it could be “welcome back” signs after they’ve been on vacation. For journalists, it could be a handwritten thank you card after a story is published.

No matter how you do it, follow your dog’s lead and make each and every person you encounter feel special. It will work wonders for your career and you’ll build a solid foundation of work and life friends.

5. Live in the moment.

This extends far beyond PR, but it’s something nearly everyone struggles with. Dogs don’t think in the past (except when trying to find an old bone), and they never think about what’s coming up tomorrow. They’re in the present, and by the smiling expressions on their faces, they’re loving every minute of it.

To make it in the PR world, you must live in the moment. Yes, it’s important to learn from past mistakes. And absolutely, it’s wise to plan for and think about the future.

But if you forget to live in the present, relishing in the day’s successes and enjoying those important moments with family and friends, you’ll get burnt out quickly. You’ll regret the life you missed out on and the memories you were too busy to make.

For me, Harry’s more than an insanely cute, loving dog. (Although he is pretty precious, wouldn’t you say?) He’s a constant role model on how to treat people and, in his own way, he reminds me to take in the moments that matter most every day.



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