The PRoust Questionnaire provides a quick insight into a public relations practitioner’s interests and point of view, as well as his or her professional beliefs and values.
If you are not familiar with the original 19th-century Proust Questionnaire, please see details at the end of this post.
PRoust Questionnaire answers from Andy Green:
1. What are your most striking characteristics as a PR practitioner?
An ability to quickly gain insight, to get to the heart of defining what I call a ‘Beautiful Question’ that is the springboard for any outstanding creativity, brand story, PR strategy or meme.
2. What is your principal fault as a PR practitioner?
Although I have the skill to see the big picture I am mindful of the need to counter balance this with collaborative resource of good implementers and do-ers alongside me, to realize the big vision.
3. What is your favourite occupation in PR?
At the moment I relish Brand Story workshops, identifying and decoding the existing narratives that drive and provide the often unperceived script for current actions. People make a big mistake about narrative, that somehow a story is something you add on to the end of an activity to sex-it up in some way, rather than the thread that runs within and throughout your activity guiding your next steps.Change the narrative and you change the future script
4. Why do you work in PR?
My kid brother is mentally handicapped. I spent most of my childhood either apologizing for any mayhem he inadvertently caused or explaining his condition to gain understanding. That seemed to set me up for a career in PR.
5. What is your idea of PR nirvana?
Taking on the big guys, enabling the little guy to overcome the odds, to gain justice and vindicating doing the right thing wins.
6. What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery in PR?
People who have the power to realize a beautiful idea but blindly say ‘No’.
7. What qualities do you most admire in a PR practitioner?
Adversity Quotient – backbone – with an ability to pick the right fights coupled with the radar to anticipate what’s going to happen next.
8. What qualities do you most dislike in a PR practitioner?
Inflexibility, or what I call the ‘Brand Stasi’. They mistake being unyielding coupled with an inability to make pragmatic assessments as a misplaced sense of control and protection. By saying ‘No’ too often they actually lead their Brands to die from atrophy rather than from any potential external reputation risk.
9. Who would you describe as a PR hero or villain?
Hero? One of my earliest bosses, Robert Davey. I was a fresh out of university, in my first PR job in local government, at the former South Yorkshire County Council, in the North of England.
Luckily for me, Robert had taken the South Yorkshire job as a stepping stone to retirement, to be close to the Yorkshire Dales. To this seeming backwater Robert shone a dazzling light with experience of PR at the highest levels in the UK Cabinet Office, international PR with De Beers, and in the seemingly glamorous world of PR consultancy.
It was from this latter experience that I remember one of Robert’s great pearls of wisdom. He told me of the time he went to pitch for a major lawnmower account. “Well, Mr. Davy” he was asked by the prospective client, “What are you going to do to improve our PR?” Robert quickly replied, “The first thing I’m going to do is cut the grass outside your office!”
From this story, and many others, I acquired my learning that PR is about something bigger, something delivered in your actions, your living and doing as much as your next newspaper clipping. Now, I would call this role as managing Brand Character.
Villains? The cowards who protect the cause of the international banking industry, and I suspect, sleep without conscience, along with the apologists for the asbestos industry which killed my Dad.
10. Who do you most value in your professional contacts?
My old university lecturer Barry Sheerman MP. Even though he is a senior UK Member of Parliament he always takes my call, has been a true friend in many times of need, and has responded with grace, sagacity, and steadfast support and belief in me.
11. Have you ever been influenced by a PR campaign?
The best PR is heard but not seen. In a negative sense, rather than a campaign it’s about being what I call a ‘Zombie Brand’. It has the shape and size inferring it is a human but lacks an inner spirit or soul to make it a real, authentic being, Sadly, I am coming across too many Zombie Brands in my life who, like the UK retailer ‘PC World’ who respond too often with ‘The Computer says ‘No’’.
12. Where would you most like to practise PR?
I have been very fortunate having delivered talks or training in every Continent except South America. My youngest daughter now lives in Melbourne, so it would be great to work there in Australia for 3 months of the year.
13. Has a novel, film, play or other work of fiction ever influenced you as a PR practitioner?
The ‘World’s Greatest Dad’ starring the late, great Robin Williams, reinforced my drive against the false celebrity culture world of ‘nonebrities’ – people famous for just being famous, with no evident talent or ability.
14. Who do you think has great public relations?
The original Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream, integrating a social mission into maverick ice cream, and how they made every brand asset sweat, like their Visitor Centre in Vermont where even the steps to the car park were branded ‘Stairway to Heaven.’
15. Which real, historical or fictional person or brand would you like to give a reputation makeover?
Perhaps Calisthenes, who I celebrate as the ‘first PR practitioner in history. Without him Alexander might have just been known as ‘Alexander the Extremely Able’.
What marks him out as PR practitioner however, was his decision to feedback to Alexander that it might not be a good idea to adopt Eastern practices of claiming to be deity, for which counsel, Alexander had Calisthenes slain.
But the ultimate makeover entitlement must be King Canute, the figure so badly mis-served by memes; he wisely sought to demonstrate that he did not have divine powers, by devising a seaside stunt. Memes transformed his story into the opposite.
16. Who is your favourite writer?
For non-fiction Jarryd Diamond’s work in unravelling incredibly complex issues, like why do societies collapse, or why some communities remain ‘primitive’ and others create industrial and scientific revolutions, are inspiring.
For creative invention and surreal comedy Malcolm Pryce’s ‘Last Tango in Abersytwyth’ series always amuses.
17. What one thing is essential to your PR life?
Pen and paper to catch the next idea. (Usually at the most inopportune of times!)
18. Groucho Marx is quoted as saying he’d never join a club that would have him as a member. Which PR club, association or tribes do you belong to—and why?
The UK Chartered Institute of Public Relations – I’ve been a member since 1988. It potentially offers a way forward to create better public relations practice and a better world.
The Public Relations Consultants’ Association – in recent years it has shown itself to be sharper, more alive to opportunities and supporting its members.
#PRredefined – a global, independent non-commercial community I helped set up with Stephen Waddington and others, later joined by Scott Guthrie who was based in Sydney, Australia. It provides a sort of living room where you bump into interesting, clever people.
I used to enjoy the Leo Lunches organized by the late Douglas Smith, a doyen of the UK PR Industry. The Leo Lunch was a remarkable social event with a doyen of doyens (is that the aggregate name?) of great PR people with even greater PR stories to regale. It was my annual treat celebrating how most of the greats in the PR business seemed to be Leos (which of course, is a very Leo thing to say and believe.)
19. Where do you most like to do your professional networking?
On-line forums are great for inter-acting with people, who you are never likely to have the opportunity to meet.
I am a Fellow of the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce. It has been a brilliant network for developing my work in creating community IdeasBanks (do check out my home town’s Barry IdeasBank – www.yourideasbank.org.uk).
20. What’s the best career decision you ever made?
Probably standing as a student union sabbatical officer. I was elected to run the student union where I started its first weekly newspaper and led successful campaigns such as creating a university crèche (It’s amazing to think that in 1980 Swansea university never had one.) Running the paper, campaigning, primed me for a career in PR.
21. What skills and abilities do you think tomorrow’s PR leaders need?
I think there will be two tribes of either ‘Ringmasters or mistresses’ and ‘Specialists’.
Crucial throughout will be an understanding of Brand Story and narrative as well as the need to be a ’Digital Capable’; we don’t need to be SEO experts but just know sufficient to weave into our thinking and doing.
22. Which talent would you most like to have?
Although I’m slightly deaf, my professional listening skills – which I believe are the most important asset for any successful communicator or leader – have served me well. However, I don’t think you can have too much listening – so an even greater talent for listening.
23. How would you like to end your PR career?
The question implies a conscious decision to stop. There are further chapters to be written on playing a part in transforming what we call ‘public relations’ as well as advancing understanding of Social Capital and the power and nature of the Infosphere.
24. How would you describe the current state of public relations?
It’s a bit like the film the ‘Matrix’. Take the status quo tablet will take us down a road of lesser influence, resource and value. Take the other pill, seizing the opportunities for what I call a ‘New School PR’, will lead us to be more in the driving seat in leading change in our organizations and the wider world.
It’s an interesting time. Part of me is hopeful, the other not.
25.What is your PR motto?
‘Beautiful questions lead to Beautiful ideas’.
Andy Green FCIPR, is an author, international conference speaker, trainer, facilitator, mememaster and Brand Story & PR consultant.
Andy’s published books include: ‘Creativity in Public Relations’, ‘Effective Personal Communications’, ‘A Minute with Tony Blair’, ‘Overcoming Stupidity’ ‘The Upturn:your part in its rise’ ,’Tubespiration! – how to get your next brilliant idea by using the London Underground as a creativity tool’, co-author ~PRredefined.
Founder of Flexible Thinking Forum in 2009 and creativity@work in 1998, Andy is also a non-executive director of several organisations. He is a visiting lecturer on the Global Communications Masters degree at Cardiff University, and guest lecturer at London College of Communications, and Management School London.
The PRoust Questionnaire was originally designed to reveal one’s personality. Its name and popularity as a form of interview has roots in the responses given by the French writer, Marcel Proust. His first set of responses came at the end of the nineteenth century, when he was still in his teens (from an English-language “confession album”).
For PR Conversations we have adapted this original idea with questions that offer a public relations’ perspective. It is fun to compare and contrast responses as the series grows. (See below.)
If you would like to be invited to complete our PRoust Questionnaire for posting on PR Conversations, please visit our Crowdsourcing suggestion form.
Earlier PRoust Questionnaire respondents: