PRoust Questionnaire: João Duarte

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 João Duarte:

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

My ability to put myself in the “shoes” of the “other”—that is why my preferred subject of  study is “the publics.”

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

Not having enough time to study issues and topics with the ideal depth. Sometimes I cannot afford to research all the issues I work with and around as deeply as I should.

3. What is your favourite occupation in PR?

I enjoy working with people from various backgrounds, establishing relationships, as well as performing the strategic planning and managing implementation of projects through teamwork.

4. Why do you work in PR?

Because of my natural inclination to develop interpersonal relationships; it’s only in developing such relationships that one understands this is simply a small piece of the “scope of work” for a PR professional. Over my career in PR I’ve determined the importance of interpersonal relationship abilities, especially in a multicultural context, in each critical step of the PR process starting with research and ending with execution.

5. What is your idea of PR nirvana?

Doing something extraordinary for my client or employer and, at the same time, doing something exceptional for the relevant stakeholder publics. Best of all, also doing something good for society—going from a bilateral to a multilateral win-win.

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

I deplore those who lack professionalism and the willingness of some to accept ethical compromises. The erosion of quality communication within the public sphere caused by under-performing PR practitioners is a threat to the profession and to society as a whole.

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

I admire an ability to understand the big picture and the interconnection between issues, stakeholder publics and important variables to the relationship between them and the organization. As well, the capability to switch from broad situational understanding to an operational and tactical communication planning, while maintaining excellent interpersonal relations and managing relationship networks.

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

What we generally, at least within the Anglo-Saxon approach, call “spin.”

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

PR heroes comprise many colleagues—sometimes just moving from college to field work, occasionally in the early stages of their PR careers—coming from different backgrounds, who thrill to the idea of understanding this profession, its founding forebears and learn (with extreme caution) the underlying power of our profession. These PR heroes use this knowledge and understanding for balanced means, rather than for propaganda or manipulation.

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

I respect their accumulated experience and capabilities. I also appreciate those who are straightforward in their opinions (critical or not) about my work, ideas, proposals, etc.

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

For sure! The most-effective ones are certainly the ones I cannot remember….

12. Where would you most like to practise PR?

In an organization that understands the role of public relations and the importance of stakeholder relationships for its mission. My ideal employer or client has a mission that represents common values of those to which PR professionals also pledge.

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

Certainly. Here’s an example of which I’m sure many PR Conversations’ readers can relate. I see public relations as a research-based discipline, in which the practitioner always needs to dive as deep as possible into a situation and its related context. In doing this, PR professionals need to be a little bit like Sherlock Holmes: Methodical, persistent, discreet, intelligent, open and capable of understand the changing scenarios.

Another great writer who likely provided some of the first-ever explanations of many concepts important to public relations work is the Roman emperor and philosopher, Cicero. In particular his work, On the Commonwealth (De re publica), has taught me many useful things.

14. Who do you think has great public relations?

I admire all of the talented staff working for “startups” across the world. These entrepreneurs are promising to change our life with innovations, new ideas and novel approaches and are certainly a breath of fresh air for our economies. Likewise, the new generations of PR professionals who support these companies worldwide, deserve to be at the centre of our attention.

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

Being Portuguese, I admit I would enjoy working with controversial and high-profile individuals such as Cristiano Ronaldo or José Mourinho. I believe both represent long-term talent, dedication and performance abilities, while simultaneously being labelled as rebels, arrogant and aggressive. Dealing with this type of paradox could be very interesting—not to “make-up” or propose a re-shuffle of their publicity model, but to develop a positioning that integrates their controversial natures.

16. Who is your favourite writer?

It would have to be Portuguese writer Eça de Queiroz, who introduced me to novels and wrote about the most exquisite aspects of human nature in his books on Portuguese society. I particularly admire his unique writing quality of describing each scene with detail. This transports the eyes of the reader to each particular and for me also taught the power of the written word.

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

My very supportive family. They allow me to earn a living in an ideal position that I enjoy very much, even when it means physical relocation for us.

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?

PR professional associations go without saying. I have or have had affiliation and collaboration relationships with many such as the Global Alliance for Public Relations and Communication Management, FERPI, APECOM, EACD and CIPR.

However, I also consider LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter great platforms to discover interesting tribes.

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

At selected events and conferences for professional development. For employment reasons (related to projects), it’s also very dependent on current issue under my consideration.

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

Listening to advice from friends and family about major employment decisions, particularly ones that had an impact on both my career and life.

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

Skills related to understanding complex scenarios, with multiple variables and network patterns, are crucial. As well, the ability to master listening and communication in the digital world, while maintaining the ability to develop and nurture relations in the “real world” are certainly among the core attributes needed in the future.

22. Which talent would you most like to have?

Infinite patience.

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

Returning to university studies and sharing my public relations knowledge with others.

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

It’s a maturing profession, needing to constantly re-discover itself and its opportunities and boundaries, in order to avoid losing centrality and credibility within organizations.

25.What is your PR motto?

Borrowing a teaching from an old friend who introduced me to Kant’s ideas on autonomy, I’d say my PR motto is: Think for yourself. Think in the place of any other. Always decide in accordance with yourself.


João Duarte MsC is director of Iberia Region for the in-house communication agency (which delivers internal and external, institutional and commercial communication) of the Enel Group, a multinational energy group based in Rome (with operations in more than 40 countries and with more than 70,000 employees). Before his recent relocation to Madrid, João worked in different international communication functions at the Enel Group’s headquarter in Rome (during key projects for the multinational transformation of the company over the past six years). Prior to Enel, he served as the inaugural executive officer (2007-2008) for the Global Alliance for Public Relations and Communication Management. A full-time PR professional for the last 14 years, he has also worked for UCI Financial Group, French 3 Suisses international Group and the Portuguese Ministry of Economy.

João is also a public relations professor (since 2001) for several undergraduate and postgraduate courses at different universities including Lisbon’s Superior School of Mass Communication and Media Arts,  where he currently lectures in its strategic public relations management master’s degree, the first program of its kind in Portuguese-speaking countries. In addition to the European Association of Communication Directors (EACD), he is a member of the European Public Relations Education and Research Association (EUPRERA) and is a former member of CERP Students and PRIME, and founding president of the APERPEC (the Portuguese Association of Public Relations and Communication Students). He is also an alumni principal of PR Conversations.

Connect with João Duarte on Twitter, LinkedIn or Google+.


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:

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

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