By Julia McCann, PR Consultant, WordPop Public Relations
For the past 10+ years, I’ve been in the PR industry and a yoga practitioner but it wasn’t until a year ago that I also became a yoga teacher. Balancing the schedule of a PR practitioner and yoga teacher got me to thinking…what do the two have in common. As it turns out, it’s quite a lot! Here are 8 PR skills that can be developed and honed through the practice of yoga.
- Discipline and enthusiasm – In yoga, the concept is called “tapas.” It’s described as a fiery enthusiasm or passion for what you do. By strengthening your core, you can tap into your innate sense of discipline that helps you get things done in your busy professional life. As a PR pro, you have to be so passionate about what you’re pitching that you can convince a journalist that their readers or viewers will be just as enthusiastic about the topic.
- Persistence – When I wanted to be able to do a headstand in the middle of the room (without a wall to save me from toppling over), one of my teachers suggested I practice every single day. I took his advice and in about a month, I was confidently standing upside down in the middle of a room full of yogis. PR can take similar persistence – often in the form of follow-up. Never underestimate the power of follow up!
- Cultivating a Support System – In yoga, it’s called the “kula” or community. If you’re used to practicing yoga in the comfort of your own home, try practicing in community and see how it can positively affect your practice. Additionally, yoga props like blocks and bolsters can help you to achieve poses in proper alignment that you might not be able to achieve yet due to your level of strength or flexibility, and these supports can be a vital asset to your practice. The same goes for PR. I once faced a tough PR problem but I luckily have a tight-knit group of brilliant PR minds to go to as a resource. They helped me to brainstorm solutions that worked.
- Flexibility – As a yoga teacher, I have to be not only physically flexible but also mentally flexible when it comes to class planning. Because I’m naturally on the more rigid end of the spectrum (I like things to go as planned), I manage this by giving myself a plan B, and sometimes a plan C. If I’m planning to teach a mellow, meditative class but students come in with high-energy, ready for a vigorous workout, I need to summon my flexibility and flip to another class in my notebook that meets the students’ needs. I also throw extra poses into my class plan in case the class goes by more quickly than anticipated. As a PR pro, there is such great need for flexibility and the ability to problem-solve. I apply the same flexibility principles in my day job – having a plan B (and maybe plan C) ahead of time. For example, if we miss a deadline, can we turn the information we’ve gathered into a blog post or tweak the subject matter and re-pitch it?
- Fostering a goal-oriented attitude and developing key messages – I almost always start yoga class by having students turn inward – closing the eyes, connecting to their breath and setting an intention for their practice. I introduce a theme for each class, choosing my words carefully and reinforcing the theme throughout class. It’s important not to forget this critical step at the outset of any PR task. Sometimes we learn about an initiative later than we’d like and we’re working a mile a minute to catch up. But it’s important to take a step back and identify the reason behind the initiative – whether it’s a press release or an event. By setting clear goals and taking the time to identify what you want to say, how you want to say it, and why, you can better determine whether that initiative was a success.
- Gaining inspiration from the primary texts – In yoga, Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras are a series of 198 sutras or aphorisms that form the foundation of our modern yoga practice. One of the first is “yogaś-citta-vṛtti-nirodhaḥ,” meaning that yoga is for quieting the churning of the mind. In the PR world, if you’re having a hectic day, you can find some clarity by taking a moment to close the eyes and breathe. Breathe in for four counts, hold for four counts, and breathe out for four counts. Repeat a few times and allow yourself to reset. Not only can PR all stars benefit from the primary texts of yoga but they should also be looking to their own primary texts. The AP Stylebook, Strunk & White’s The Elements of Style and Crystallizing Public Opinion by Edward L. Bernays are all good choices.
- Detachment from ego – As a yogi, one has to be able to detach themselves from their sense of pride. It’s not about competing with the people around you or comparing your body today to the way it was yesterday. It’s about accepting yourself as you are in the moment. As a PR pro, it can sometimes feel like your pitches are getting sucked into a black hole. But that’s why follow-up is vitally important. I’ve heard journalists say over and over how busy they are and to check back in with them. Even if you have a great pitch, it might be skipped over because the journalist doesn’t know you or they’re just extra busy that day. So detach from your sense of ego. As long as you are sending relevant pitches to the right people, be persistent and don’t let a lack of response get you down.
- Taking time to connect – I make an effort to speak with every person before I start class – especially to find out whether they have any injuries and if they’ve practiced yoga before. For PR pros, this means knowing the journalists who are interested in covering your clients’ industry, understanding what they write about, researching what’s going on in the industry – and making connections between what’s going on in the industry and what’s going on in the world. Take time to get to know these journalists – even when you don’t have a story to pitch or by asking them what they’re working on. This will help you to cut through a journalist’s cluttered inbox.