Advice to PR Newbies: Where You Sit is Where You Stand

I’ve seen a lot of folks blogging with lists of the most important things for you public relations professionals to do while looking for or starting their careers. I agree that it’s very important to blog, brand yourself, stay current with the news, etc., but I feel it’s necessary to bring in one reminder about PR and personal beliefs.

I had a professor in grad school who had one oft-repeated saying: Where you sit is where you stand.

As young public relations pros enter a tough economy, we might see them becoming less choosy about where and with whom they accept positions. Yes, it is understandable for someone to make sacrifices in salary expectations or location desires at this point. But it’s important for all of us to remember who we are as we consider what organizations we want to be a part of.

That’s where my professor’s motto comes in, because where you sit truly is where you stand. Think about it — it’s important for you as a communicator to work for an organization with a message you’re comfortable with communicating. Imagine if you were an environmentalist in the PR department at BP in 2010. If you’re a republican, MoveOn.org probably isn’t a good career move. Remember that you’re going to be a spokesperson for every business decision and every campaign your organization takes on. It’s important that you be comfortable with the messages you will deliver. Also remember that this position will be on your resume when you choose to leave.

Where you sit is where you stand. Make sure the chair is comfortable for you.

Take a deep breath – Montel is breathing incorrectly

Those Montel Williams commercials for Money Mutual really annoy me.

It has nothing to do with predatory lending or anything like that, though it certainly is a field worthy of  disdain. It has to do with Montel’s shoulders.

His shoulders.

I looked for the commercial on YouTube but I can’t find it. If you really want to see what I’m talking about, turn on Spike TV for five minutes or so and the commercial will come on at least twice (love those Star Wars marathons). Every time Montel inhales, his shoulders come up. Violently. No big deal, right? Actually it is. It’s a sign that Montel has no idea how to breathe.

Your lungs aren’t in your shoulders and neither is your diaphragm. That’s one reason not to breathe with your shoulders. Another is that your shoulders aren’t strong enough to help you breathe. Watch how quickly Montel’s shoulders fall once he starts talking; it’s immediate, but he keeps on talking after they fall. That’s because his shoulders aren’t helping at all.

What’s the big deal? This: Breathing is an essential part of life. You can last a lot longer without food or water than you can without air. Aside from that, proper breathing is also a tool to help you relax, which is especially important is stressful situations.

So, to do it properly, you just emply different muscle groups — most important being your abdominals. Here is a simple drill:

Sit in a chair with your back straight. Now grip the sides of the seat of your chair with your hands and try taking a breath while maintaining your grip. You should notice that, since you can’t lift your shoulders, your stomach will expand as you inhale. That’s what you’re looking for. Breathe deeply and hold it, then exhale slowly. Do it all very very slowly.

For you aspiring broadcasters or anyone looking to improve their resonance, incorporate this drill with some stretching. Take a deep breath and hold it, then open your mouth a little and tilt your head to one side so your ear comes close to your shoulder (don’t open your mouth wide and don’t raise your shoulder to your ear). Then return to center and repeat to the other side. Try going forward and backward as well. This will help stretch the muscles in your neck and your oral cavity, making your voice a little more resonant.

And next time you feel stressed, take a deep breath the correct way. You’ll notice a difference.