One Question Every PR Professional Should be Asking

Written by Gracie Ratterree

Best-selling author Simon Sinek once said, “It’s those who start with why, that have the ability to inspire those around them or find others who inspire them.”

In the spirit of Sinek’s words, when you enter the Public Relations and Strategic Communications program at the University of Central Missouri, one of the first ideas that professors introduce to you is your sense of why.

This idea is meant to inspire students to understand why a company or organization makes certain decisions, why your public responds a certain way to your messaging, or why your strategies and tactics receive certain results.

One company that excels in understanding their why is Apple, as Sinek highlights in his book, “Start With Why.” Because it was able to get a strong grasp on its sense of why, Apple has been able to set itself apart from competitors. Now when thinking about technology, especially cellphones and computers, it’s one of the first companies that people think of.

Another solid example is Starbucks. It too was able to differentiate itself in such a way that built brand loyalty worldwide. Both of these companies have logos that are widely recognized by people ranging from children to elderly.

Answering the question, “Why?” goes beyond public relations. It’s at the core of who you are as an individual. Why do you get out of bed every day? Why do you care? Why is all the effort and hard work necessary? While the answers to these questions may tie back to career choices, the power of these questions extend much further. They are what makes you a leader and determines what type of leader you are.

“Why?” goes beyond public relations. It’s at the core of who you are as an individual.

Microsoft has done an excellent job with leadership. Not only has Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft, increased revenue, but he has also built a reputation for being a fair and encouraging leader. Nadella motivates employees to learn constantly and gives back to the community and other companies. He was able to build a reputation as an influential, kind leader because he has a strong sense of his why and was able to execute it with all of his publics, both internal and external.

For those who aspire to be leaders, an understanding of different styles of leadership is essential to why you make certain decisions and how you interact with others. When learning about strategic communication, we were introduced to four different types of leadership styles: authoritarian, democratic, laissez-faire, and paternalistic. People who identify with autocratic leadership styles tend to take control in decision-making situations and make decisions based on what they think is best. Democratic leaders are typically more open to the opinions of others and take those opinions into consideration when making a decision. With laissez-faire leadership styles, an individual usually takes a more hands-off approach and trusts those around them to make decisions, unless input is needed. Individuals who have a paternalistic leadership style tend to take control and make decisions but take into consideration how their decisions will directly impact their workers and/or peers.

While reading those brief definitions, did you find yourself thinking that one style might be superior? Did you relate to one style more than the others? Why? Leaders are more than their decisions. It’s how they treat and communicate with their employees, customers, and media. It’s the hours of work and lack of sleep going into the decision making. It’s the way they carry themselves, and their beliefs in their skills and abilities. At the root of all these factors is that leader’s drive and motivations, their why.

Whenever I start to feel overwhelmed, incapable, or fearful of a new experience, I ask myself why. Why am I here? Why is my education important? Why am I choosing to push myself outside of my comfort zone? Asking yourself these kinds of questions, and never losing sight of your why, will aid in your success.


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