PRoust Questionnaire: Tina McCorkindale

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The PRoust Questionnaire provides a quick insight into a public relations practitioner’s interests and point of view, as well as her or his 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 Tina McCorkindale:

1. What are your most striking characteristics as a PR practitioner?

I’m a total and complete nerd—I love statistics and research.

2. What is your principal fault as a PR practitioner?

Sometimes I get too caught up in following a formula of what should be done, rather than trusting my gut reaction.

I’m getting better, though.

3. What is your favourite occupation in PR?

My current one, which involves anything related to PR research.

(If there was a job posting for a stand-up PR comedian—that would be my ideal job; however, I don’t think there will be one anytime soon.)

4. Why do you work in PR?

Every day means something different and new. I feel so lucky to work in a profession that I really enjoy. The people I get to interact with on a daily basis are fantastic, and I love meeting new people.

5. What is your idea of PR nirvana?

I feel great joy when people say the work we do is important, and truly understand the contribution of public relations to the big picture.

In addition, when someone tells you that you’ve made a difference in their life—this is particularly gratifying from my former university students.

6. What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery in PR?

It drives me crazy when people equate PR with spin or something that’s free (akin to publicity).

I also despise when people say they are in public relations because they aren’t very good at math. I definitely think that “subtracts” from what we do.

7. What qualities do you most admire in a PR practitioner?

Humility, intelligence, kindness, genuineness, and a sense of humor

8. What qualities do you most dislike in a PR practitioner?

Arrogance, dishonesty, and a bad attitude

9. Who would you describe as a PR hero or villain?

A PR hero is one who is a champion for the profession. Such heroes serve as mentors, and want to help others do well.

Arrogance in the profession really turns me off. Also, when people won’t try to help others or give back.

I feel like we are all in this together so we should support each other.

10. What do you most value in your professional contacts?

I value the personal experiences of my professional contacts. Everyone I meet has her or his own story to tell, and these shared narratives influence my perception of our field.

11. Have you ever been influenced by a PR campaign?

Definitely. I frequently recognize what they are trying to accomplish; however, if I like the organization, I am supportive and engage.

12. Where would you most like to practise PR?

From a geographic perspective, I’m happy where I live in Seattle.

Sometimes I think it would be great to work again in a corporate environment, where everyone is striving toward a goal for a common organization. It’s an “everyone drank the Kool-Aid feeling.”

In terms of a specific company, I’d like to go somewhere that has a start-up culture.

13. Has a novel, film, play or other work of fiction ever influenced you as a PR practitioner?

I read a lot—probably two books a week. So yes, what I read influences me. I often think about how I can incorporate something into my job (or why I should not take that path).

Most of the time I’m affected is when I read non-fiction (biographies or case studies). It’s probably a good thing that my love for Stephen King’s books typically does not influence my day-to-day job.

14. Who do you think has great public relations?

One of the most important criteria is organizations who are genuine—that is, the ones who seem to care about the needs of various stakeholders. Several companies come immediately to mind.

Wells Fargo not only publishes great content on its Wells Fargo Stories site, but when I toured their offices, I discovered they are doing some really neat things in terms of storytelling, especially with their internal communications.

MasterCard has some great programs, including publishing some industry research. For example, a couple months ago, the company published a great infographic about what consumers talk about in terms of payments on social.

Several years ago, Cargill reached out to activist publics to find out how they could work better together.

Peppercomm had fun with its own PR, publishing a list of company blunders during the year it celebrated its 20-year anniversary.

And then there is USAA. As a member, I know it is as one of the best companies to interact with on a personal level; the customer service is superb.

A company that I consider to have great PR is one that is honest and genuine, shares great stories and research, and admits to its mistakes.

15. Which real, historical or fictional person or brand would you like to give a reputation makeover?

Wow, this is tough.

I typically think of historical figures with positive reputations, who probably did not earn or deserve them. A great book to read on this topic is Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States.

I would like to give the former-planet, now-dwarf-planet Pluto a makeover. In doing so, the outcome would be Pluto being named the (full) planet it deserves to be.

16. Who is your favourite writer?

I have several. There are a handful of writers where I have to pick up their latest book as soon as it comes out: Stephen King, Jon Krakauer, Harlan Coben, Liane Moriarty, and Michael Connelly. I also try to keep up with many of the books listed on the New York Times Best Sellers list.

17. What one thing is essential to your PR life?

My iPhone.

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?

Besides the Institute for Public Relations (IPR), the one that comes first to mind is the Arthur W. Page Society—I recently attended my first annual conference and it had excellent sessions.

I’m also a long-time member of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA)—I think it’s a good place to give back.

It’s also thrilling that the IPR is a (group) member of the Global Alliance for Public Relations and Communication Management (GA)—this umbrella organization is doing some incredible work, bringing together associations from around the world. We have great discussions at its meetings.

19. Where do you most like to do your professional networking?

Conferences, restaurants, and bars.

20. What’s the best career decision you ever made?

Leaving a tenured position at a university to take on the role of the IPR’s president and CEO.

21. What skills and abilities do you think tomorrow’s PR leaders need?

Great listening skills, strong research abilities, and excellent writing skills. These may be oldies, but remain the goodies future PR leaders need, too.

22. Which talent would you most like to have?

I wish I played piano better. Oh, and I wish I could read minds.

23. How would you like to end your PR career?

I’d like to go out “on a high note,” perhaps similar to George Constanza in Seinfield.

24. How would you describe the current state of public relations?

Optimistic.

25. What is your PR motto?

This was coined by Ogilvy’s Mickey Nall, but I frequently say:

“It’s PR, not ER.”


Seattle, Washington-based Tina McCorkindale, PhD, APR, is the president and CEO of the Institute for Public Relations. She also serves as the 2015-2017 PRSSA national faculty adviser.

Formerly, McCorkindale was an associate professor of public relations at Appalachian State University and has taught at several universities, including Cal Poly Pomona, University of Vermont, and Ramkhamhaeng University in Bangkok, Thailand. She has taught in West Virginia University’s graduate integrated marketing communications program since 2009, and has nearly 10 years of experience working in corporate communication and as a senior research analyst.

Connect with Tina McCorkindale on LinkedIn and Twitter.


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:

Andy Green

Sean Kelly

– Helen Slater

João Duarte

Catherine Arrow

Stuart Bruce

Fraser Likely

Jane Tchan

Sean Williams

Al Clarke

Léa Werthman

Estelle de Beer

Don Radoli

Toni Muzi Falconi

Richard Bailey

Jane Jordan-Meier

Nelly Benova

Peter Stanton

Mat Wilcox

Anne Gregory

Markus Pirchner

Heather Yaxley

Judy Gombita

5 COMMENTS

  1. Tina – great answers. I’m interested in your love of statistics and research, and despise for those who say they aren’t good at maths when working in PR. Totally with you on the importance of numbers and data (though I’m also partial to qualitative as well as quantitative insight). So what do you think we can/should be doing to increase the recognition of, and competency levels in, numeracy and generally nerdiness, among PR practitioners?

  2. Thanks for your question, Heather. I think it’s making sure we use both qualitative and quantitative data to build, support, and evaluate our programs/initiatives, etc.

    I think most of us are being asked to do that anyway – when we are savvier in these tools, then we elevate ourselves and our importance to the organization.

    • Tina – you seem to be suggesting that demand for increased savviness in use of qual/quant data will increase numeracy and nerdy competencies among practitioners. My concern is for PR practitioners, at all ages and career stages, to be educated, recruited, trained, recognised and rewarded for their numerical and research abilities. Also the emphasis within the occupation has to shift from words and stories to challenging and championing strength in STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and maths).

      For example, research I’ve been doing to try to establish a demography of UK PR practice and practitioners has revealed not only poor methodology and lack of rigour in undertaking surveys, let alone how the data is used selectively, but also how little understanding of statistics and qualitative data is evidenced when such studies are reported and used in academia and wider practice.

      Same is true for many PR practitioners when it comes to balance sheets, understanding the engineering or technology deployed by their companies or clients and so on.

      Perhaps we need to be recruiting more engineers and maths students and graduates into the occupation?

  3. Yes! I had numerous students who dreaded research and statistics, but once you break their lack of confidence in numbers, and show how it can be valuable, then you change their perception. We all need numbers and we all need math. We use it every day no matter how many times people hear or think they are not very good at it.

    I think we are all trainable, no matter our level of knowledge regarding research. Part of the requirements of having a PRSSA chapter at a university (+340 chapters), based on the recommendations from the Commission for Public Relations Education, is having research methods, both qualitative and quantitative. So our students are graduating better equipped in research.

    At IPR, we are developing a Research Bootcamp to help train professionals in a practical way so they can better understand the tools, such as survey design and social media analysis, which helps drive value for what we do. I don’t think we need to necessarily recruit for people with a STEM background, but rather having a more general respect for and understanding of numbers in the profession as a whole.

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