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Posted on 02.23.2010

More Than Words

Many years ago when I was trying to decide what I would do with my life, I told my parents I was considering a career in communications. I’ll never forget my dad’s response. “What are you going to do with that degree besides stand in the unemployment line and ‘communicate’ about how you can’t find a job?,” he said. Ouch. Luckily, I didn’t let his opinion deter me. Today I’ve worked in public relations for more than 15 years and I love what I do. More importantly, I see tremendous value in it. It takes great skill to understand all sides of an issue and articulate your position in such a way that persuades people and moves them to action.


Too often, however, people forget that being an effective communicator is about more than finding the right words; it’s also about finding the right message. Sometimes that means sorting through page after page of data to find that one statistic that perfectly supports your position … or immersing yourself in a company’s business to understand the essence of who they are so you can find the best way to share it. The right message is almost always the result of asking the right questions. Whether that means exploring unpleasant ‘what ifs’ and worst case scenarios or asking the “dumb” questions no one else wants to ask, it’s a communicator’s job to ferret out the truth and build their position around it. So while my dad may have had a point (PR folks are a friendly bunch), I’ve come to realize that being an effective communicator takes more than glad-handing and rhetoric. Among many other skills, it requires a natural curiosity, dogged determination and an appreciation for data and sound logic. That’s a tough pill to swallow for us right brained types, but hopefully, it’ll put my dad’s mind at ease about my future employment prospects.

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