Talk PR: Be more human and your business will flourish

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Working relations can always be courteous but what qualities make them really rewarding? Talk PR’s Tanya Hughes asks leading business figures to find out.

Tanya Hughes, Talk PR

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All brands and businesses need to build relationships to be successful. Over the years, Talk PR has been lucky enough to forge close personal and working relationships with many brilliant people. I talked to some of them about what makes a relationship rewarding.

What do you think makes a rewarding relationship?

Anya Hindmarch, designer (AH): You have got to be honest, which can be quite an effort to give or to take. And be fair.

Dylan Jones, editor-in-chief, British GQ (DJ): The most important thing in our industry is being able to rely on people. I know almost immediately whether or not I’m going to have a rewarding relationship with a person by what they say and their body language.

Susan Sams, vice-president of business development and corporate communications, Lane Crawford Joyce Group (SS): A rewarding relationship is one in which you are constantly bringing the best out in each other. In China, we have a word for relationships, guanxi, that sums up personal networks and connections and the influence that you have on each other. It’s an old saying, but I think it means a great deal today.

Nicholas Coleridge, president, Condé Nast International (NC): At work I think there has to be empathy. I have worked with some people for more than 20 years and, in fact, if you don’t like them, it is never going to be any good. If you like them and there is a spark of humour and empathy and mutual understanding, then you can do the serious stuff – before the gossip.

Josh Wood, global creative director for colour, Wella Professionals (JW): I think most relationships are partnerships – they are mutually beneficial.

Jane Shepherdson, chief executive, Whistles (JS): A rewarding relationship is one where both parties respect each other’s judgement. A sense of humour makes relationships much easier – more natural.

Lucia van der Post, associate editor, The Financial Times ‘How To Spend It’ magazine: The first thing you have to have is trust. Second, not to ask more of people than they are actually able to give and to know what those boundaries are.

Anna-Marie Solowij, beauty journalist and chief executive, BeautyMART (AS): Longevity matters – I have the best working relationships with people I’ve known for years.

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Trust, respect, empathy and humour are some of the qualities well known business leaders expect

How do you build and maintain rewarding relationships?

Meredith Parker, luxury group publishing director, Hearst Magazines UK: To maintain important relationships you have to make them a priority and make a real effort to do that. I try to find ways of including people in things we have going on. Months can tick by, so it’s important to see people regularly, to understand what they have been up to and that they know what you’re up to.

AH: Maintaining relationships is done through having fun and being authentic. Kindness is really important too.

DJ: It’s easy to maintain relationships if you deliver. The people that I have long standing relationships with are the people that I do business with, that I achieve things with.

AS: Strong bonds can be formed through adverse situations, the dramas such as finding yourself in the middle of Mexico with a broken down car, 18 suitcases and three models to get somewhere. You bond over those situations and lifelong friendships can result.

Ben Cooke, Herbal Essences ambassador and celebrity hairstylist: Simple – treat people as you would like to be treated.

NC: There’s no doubt you have to see people face-to-face a lot in order to keep a relationship alive. In the building at Condé Nast I talk to four editors and four publishers all the time when I need to test-drive ideas. When you say something out loud to different people you trust, it’s a good way of clarifying it in your own mind.

You need humour and an interest to bond over. You have to be able to have a laugh at the end of the day.

Richard Young, celebrity photographer: You can push your luck, but not too far – there has to be charm and humour in it. I had a long professional and personal relationship with Elizabeth Taylor, but that got off to a shaky start after I gate-crashed Richard Burton’s 50th birthday party. But some beautifully framed and boxed prints with a heartfelt ‘I’m sorry’ opened the door.

Susie Forbes, principal, Condé Nast College of Fashion & Design: Manners and courtesy go a long way – thinking about other people, not just yourself. Hard work, flexibility, being nice to have around – all those things matter too.

JS: I have many different relationships on many different levels – all important and mutually fulfilling. From exterior agencies and press to designers, creatives and the next generation of talent, who I have tried to support. We can all do things for each other and we recognise that.

SS:Having a common purpose or shared ambition can drive relationships, but you also need to have a sense of humour and an interest to bond over. You have to be able to have a laugh at the end of the day.

How do you think social media and technology affect relationships today?

SS: In an increasingly global world, we need to be able to connect and commit to relationships wherever they may be. Modern technology enables us to do that in a very good way. We are lucky to have Skype, FaceTime, Google Hangouts – it’s like being there.

AS: It’s very important to sit and look someone in the eye when you’re having a planning conversation, especially when you need to ask an awkward question or push hard for something. Only by seeing how they react can you know how far to go – it’s an emotional judgement you make from physically being in the same space.

JW: I travel to at least four countries a month so I have to use everything at my disposal to maintain relationships – it’s about connecting in whatever way I can.

DJ: The most important thing about having a good working relationship is actually having a relationship. I think too many people now rely on electronic communication and you rarely get to meet people.

AH: I don’t believe technology has affected relationships. I think it enhances them.

The things that came up time and again – trust, respect, empathy, mutual understanding and benefit, humour, kindness – are the human qualities that make a huge difference to working relationships. The challenge for brands remains to be more human.

Tanya Hughes

SERMO Communications
Talk PR

3-5 Rathbone Place

T: 020 7268 6120


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