I don’t think yoga is weird, but PR people are

I went to yoga class with my wife for the first time.

I don’t think that’s weird or remarkable. It’s super popular and a great way to develop your mind and body. The fact that there were 25 women and only one other guy in the class? Not an issue for me.

That’s why I was so surprised when I caught myself feeling super self-conscious in the middle of a pose. And later I realized what that says about the psyche of a PR pro, and how we should adapt.

So there I was – kneeling and bending and stretching, following along with the teacher’s gentle instructions, not thinking about anybody else. And then I find myself laying on my back, knees bent, hands holding them, and she goes, “Now slowly pull your legs apart with your hands and roll back and forth.” (Sorry, yoga vets, I’m a newb and can’t remember what that pose is called.)

And I suddenly became nearly overcome with the totally irrational fear that somehow I looked foolish and people would mock me. Even though everyone in the room was doing the exact same thing! I almost stopped to “take a break.”

I spent the rest of the class thinking about this, and it occurred to me that being a PR person by training can make us overly susceptible to caring what other people think.

I mean, caring what others think is the fundamental root of our job. We’re tasked with anticipating how various audiences and stakeholders will react to what our organization does. And if you do any social media monitoring, you know there are plenty of people unafraid to share their negative opinions about what your organization does.

When I was stressing out doing that “weird” pose, I even had the crazy fear that someone would post a video of me on social media mocking me for “doing it wrong.” Do you ever think like that or is it just me?

We re-read every draft social media post before it goes live to make sure that it’s not inadvertently offensive to some group or individual. Or doesn’t accidentally trigger a parade of snark. And forget to turn off that part of our brain as it relates to how we lead out with communications. Or how we handle ourselves in meetings. Or how we do yoga :).

Because of this, PR people are some of the most risk-averse I’ve ever known. We can be paralyzed with worry about what people will think to the point that we don’t take actions that will lead to our success.

I remember one Inner Circle member I advised who worked for a large privately owned company. She was stressing because the owner and CEO of the company publicly advocated for causes. This PR pro did her duty and advised the CEO that some of their customers and resellers likely didn’t share her passion for those particular causes and that it might alienate them. The CEO acknowledged that and kept on doing it. The PR person asked me, “How do I get her to stop?”

My response: “Don’t try to get her to stop. It’s her company. She built it, and this is what she wants to do. Don’t apologize for it, either. Just own it.” (Obviously, if you work for a public organization or a company with lots of shareholders, my advice would be different.)

The point is:

When you and your organization are acting consistently with your mission and values, don’t hold back because you’re worried about what people might think.

Just like you shouldn’t feel weird doing the same yoga pose that everyone else in your class is doing. It was a great stretch, btw.

This article was originally published on December 4, 2019

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