The No. 1 Thing Communicators Must Do

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  • January 25, 2017
  • Candice Eng

You cannot not communicate. Without communications, we would lack the human connections and the relationships that make us who we are – with friends, colleagues, brands, cultures, and ourselves.

Yesterday, PR News honored the top communicators who have shaped the conversations, developed the voices, and led the way for the PR and communications industry and its clients. Our own Starr Million Baker is among them – pause for applause. In continuation of our #celebratewomen campaign, I wanted to share some of the key communications lessons I’ve learned from Starr; communications values that have really stuck with me at INK. These are values that Starr continues to practice and instill in the people she comes across, both professionally and personally. They boil down to one thing: Listen.

“The most important part of communications is what is not being said.” Or as Starr puts it in words that I understand, “Keep your mouth shut. You can’t listen with your mouth open.”

Listening is about learning, not replying. Listening is about understanding, not just fixing. We all want to be heard, want our words to matter so they can make an impact. But you can talk for a lifetime and never make a ripple if you don’t know who you’re talking to, what they want or need, or what the conversation is really about. How will you know what really matters – to your client, to the reporter, to your audience, to your colleagues – if you’re not listening?

Next time you’re having a conversation, answering an email, or even sending a tweet, stop and actively listen. Don’t interrupt. Don’t judge. Don’t act immediately. Listen to the words people are using, the ones they’re not, how they’re saying it, their challenges, their cares – when you listen, it’s not about you.

So learn to listen and listen to learn. You don’t know everything. Yes, that’s a hard one for me too at times. But it’s exciting to know that you can continue to grow and evolve – in your work, your communications, and your relationships. And like Andy Warhol, you can listen for new ways to say old things and old ways to say new things.

We kicked off our celebration with the words of great leaders who have inspired us and paved the way for future generations. We’ll wrap it up with a Twitter chat on Friday, January 27, at 1 pm CT. Join us, other PR News Honorees, and fellow communicators to discuss how we can lead the communications industry. More info on how to participate can be found here.

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