Leadership, Mentorship & Networking Tips


As part of the ongoing Interview with PR Legends and Leaders series, we ask world-class public relations professionals to tackle quick-thinking questions on leadership, mentorship and networking in PR. Check out the YouTube playlist below:

DIANA MARTINELLI: My leadership tip is to take the initiative to try new things and to grow and not to be afraid and not to wait for them to come to you.

BRIDGET COFFING: My leadership tip is to match what you do with what you say. People want to know about an organization the same thing they want to know about a human being, which is yes what are your goals. What is your vision? What is your strategy? But they actually want to know who you are. So, make sure there is no gap no light in between what you say and what you actually do. So, let your actions match your words. So authentic, sincere, I think that goes a real long way at every level.

ALICIA THOMPSON: My leadership tip is to never stop learning. Always be a life-long learner. Never assume that you know all there is to know about any one particular thing. My mentorship tip is to remember that it’s reciprocal. Your mentor is learning just as much from you as you are from them. So don’t get caught up in my mentor has to be older than me, my mentor has to be in a more senior role because the best mentorship relationships you both are learning. My networking tip is if you’re not working your net, your net is not working. Having a laundry list or a Rolodex full names that you never reach out to, that you never engage other than when you need something is not networking. Every leader is a work in progress. Leadership is not something that you can declare that you’re done and put it on a business card. It is something that we constantly work towards and aspire to every day. The lesson that took me the longest to learn was patience, and I am still a work in progress on that one. But in our industry things don’t often move as quickly as we would like them to. So being patient and waiting for the right opportunity is something that I am still continuing to work on.

KEVIN SAGHY: My leadership tip is, to begin with, the end in mind. My mentorship tip is to pay it forward because I think when we pay it forward you’ll never know what the immediate payoff is going be. But I think you get much more of reward down the road. So my networking tip is to offer mutual value. So often we asked help from our mentors but throughout the years you can help them as well. Every leader is in a position to make a difference. And I think it’s on each leader to figure out how they can make that difference and do so responsibly. The lesson that took me the longest to learn was not only my strengths but the counteract of those strengths, so. I think you need to know yourself really well and where you can contribute and then also where you may have some shortcomings and how you can lead knowing both your blind spots and your strengths.

NILANJANA BARDHAN: My leadership tip is to never stop being a learner, because I don’t think there is a point anyone ever reaches that says I’ve learned everything there is to learn about being a good leader. Be a life-long learner is my leadership tip. To students, my mentorship tip is, to look for a mentor who will really understand who you are as a person, and help you grow, given who you are as a person. And what your goals and ambitions are. My networking tip is to broaden your horizons when it comes to networking and to not always seek out people who are like you, but people who are different from you. So you can really learn about how complicated this world is and have to navigate your way through a very complicated not just country, but world. The lesson that took me the longest time to learn is… it comes down to one thing, and that is a Native American saying. And that saying is it’s about having the serenity to know what are the things that you cannot change and to accept those, and to have the courage to change the things that you know you have the power to change and to have the wisdom to know the difference between the two. And I think sometimes it’s very easy to think you can control everything and change everything, but I think as one matures and goes through experiences and through life you figure out it’s really important to make these distinctions. And good leaders teach themselves how to do this.

DIANA MARTINELLI: My mentorship tip is to identify a leader whom you admire and to emulate them and to take the initiative and don’t be afraid to initiate the relationship. My networking tip is to always carry business cards, always give away business cards, and always take business cards from those whom you meet. On the back, write the date, write where you met them, and then when you get time, go back write a personal note, tell them how much you enjoyed meeting them and ask them to LinkedIn. Every leader is human and makes mistakes, and that’s all right as long as you admit it and you learn from it and you move forward. The lesson that took me the longest to learn is that it’s OK to ask for help and to ask for advice. I think that many times professionals and young people who are just starting and they think, oh my gosh, I’ve graduated college and now I need to know everything, and you don’t. And it’s not a sign of weakness, but it’s really a sign of strength to ask people for help and ask people for advice when you need it.

BRIDGET COFFING: My mentorship tip is to be open, be vulnerable, be honest. The reality is as you seek a mentor, he or she cannot help you if you’re not honest about what– an open your aspirations are. And also open and honest about where your gaps are, where your opportunities are. So I think that being able to have a very clear sense an understanding of who you are, where your needs for growth are so that people can guide and direct you will make for such more meaningful and impactful, not only dialogue, but personal development action plan for yourself. So, take a hold of being as– it’s like the same advice as a doctor. A doctor can help you if you go in and say I feel great. And in fact you’ve got a broken back. So you need to be open and honest to be able to get the guidance and the input that will help you develop, and help you to really take on the kinds of things that make you a better professional. My networking tip is to really focus on building relationships. Sincere, authentic, deep, and meaningful relationships. And networking to me is not checking the box. And I’m not suggesting it is to other people by saying that. But I think it’s become a cliche. And I think that networking and just meeting people, and having a big host of folks that you can count as acquaintances isn’t as effective as developing relationships.Where you really can speak about important subjects with candor, with honesty, with clarity, with the kind of professional intimacy that’s really required to solve a problem, or tackle an issue, or come up with a game plan or a solution. Whether it’s for your own professional development or whether it is taking a solution to your enterprise, it’s not that much different. It’s all about relationships. Every leader is human so I would encourage everyone to understand that while we will all meet people in our professional life, to know and to understand that we all get out of bed you know the same way. That we all have strengths that we’re very proud of. That we all have problems that we’re trying to solve. That we all can benefit and learn from value added relationships. And so, it goes back to having and building over time confidence, and earning that seat at the table. Finding that voice and contributing in a way that is appreciated and valued. Because people are looking for talent and for public relations counsel and leadership that understands what the marketplace and the dynamic is that’s going on. And that is thoughtful and purposeful. And that leader is human and if you can come with that kind of clear thinking and consistency, because I think leaders are also looking for consistency, and for people that they know are honest brokers. So you know develop that leadership trait that is your brand and your calling card. And when we talk about leaders and their traits, we’ll be talking about you.

JULIA HOOD: My leadership tip is, hire people who are smarter than you and let them own the areas that you are not comfortable in. It will only make everyone look better. My mentorship tip is to be specific about what you want to achieve from mentorship, or from being a mentor, and actually, focus on tasks that you can accomplish. My networking tip is to listen, ask questions, and don’t sell yourself. Every leader is scared to death, but they do it anyway. The lesson that took me the longest to learn was that it is kinder, in the long run, to be straightforward with people and be honest, still trying to be kind and considerate of their feelings, but that no good ever comes from obscuring the truth.

BRIDGET COFFING: I think one of the things that really took me a while to learn, and I would love to short circuit that for anybody that listens to is I thought for a long time I had to have all the answers. That I was supposed to know when a question was asked what that answer was, or that I was solely responsible for getting that answer. And I learned– I would like to think relatively quickly, but I wish I’d learned faster– that in point of fact, you don’t have to have every answer to every question. When something is asked of you that expectation typically is that you are going to have the wherewithal to get the answer if you don’t have it. And to seek the subject matter experts. And to surround yourself with people and to cultivate and develop relationships that you can call upon to bring that answer, to bring that best thinking, to bring that solution to the table. So, that would have saved me a lot of anguish and a lot of burning the candle by myself at midnight had I learned that earlier. So, I think people love a collaborator. I think people love someone that is so honest and such a straight shooter that they’re able to say, “I don’t know, but I’m going to get you that answer.” And then they do it and they deliver on what they said they would, which is the answer.

JOANNE BISCHMANN: My leadership tip is, you’re only as good as the people you surround yourself with; my mentorship tip is, have confidence. There’s no one that is any better than you are. My networking tip is, never burn a bridge.

DR. BRYAN REBER: My leadership tip is listen. My mentorship tip is to give back. None of us have gotten to where we are without someone helping us along, and as mentors, we need to be mentors and give back to those who are coming behind us. It’s the right thing to do. My networking tip is to develop meaningful networks. Don’t try to engage with everyone in the room necessarily, but find people who are meaningful to what you want to do, and what you’re interested in, and what problems you’re trying to solve, and network and build relationships with them.

This link will take you to more interviews with public relations leaders and legends.