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 Kim Blanchette:
What is your most striking characteristic as a PR practitioner?
Can I have two? When under pressure, I can jump to tactics. I recognize this is wrong, but sometimes I move into “get it done” mode. (I try to remind myself to step out and look at the bigger picture.)
However, on more than one occasion, I’ve been told my very loud laugh is quite distinctive.
What is your principal fault as a PR practitioner?
Can I have two? When under pressure, I can jump to tactics. I recognize this is wrong, but sometimes move into “get it done” mode. (I try to remind myself to step out and look at the bigger picture.)
As well, I can take it personally when my advice isn’t heeded. That’s ego, I know; it’s something I’m working on.
What is your favourite occupation in PR?
Whatever I’m doing at the time. When I worked in media relations, it was all I wanted to do. Next, it was internal communications, and I loved that area, too. Speech writing. Strategic planning…. Currently my team and I work at the strategic level, and we’re heavily into research and measurement. I’m really enjoying that focus.
That’s the great thing about PR: No two projects or roles are the same, so you are always learning something new.
Why do you work in PR?
The reason is linked closely to my answer above. I get to do so many different things—event planning, writing, research, media, employee engagement, digital and social media. For someone with my attention span, getting to do so many different things keeps me engaged. However, the real reward is in seeing the impact my related work has on organizations and the value that PR brings in helping to build and maintain relationships.
What is your idea of PR nirvana?
Hmmm, tough one. This may sound pandering and cheesy, but it’s right now, working with my team at the Alberta Energy Regulator, as well as the opportunity to volunteer as an executive with the Canadian Public Relations Society. Not only do I get to see the best of our profession in action, I get to be a part of it!
But, I have to admit, I’d give up this current nirvana if Disney came knocking.
What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery in PR?
Working for an organization that sees your role as a “spinner” (or a news release factory), with no input into the organization’s vision or goals. This would mean being unable to integrate things like the Melbourne Mandate or the CPRS Code of Professional Standards into my work.
What qualities do you most admire in a PR practitioner?
The same qualities we all want in our team members and external colleagues: A commitment to their roles, understanding purpose, respect for others, dedication to initiatives and tasks, and a sense of humour and the ability to have fun.
Excellent communication is key to our profession, and good writers always attract my attention, as well as help me strive to improve my own writing.
What qualities do you most dislike in a PR practitioner?
I dislike those practitioners with a sense of self-importance, as well as people who are incapable of accepting change. Oh, and anyone who treats others as lesser beings and thinks a specific task or assignment is beneath him or her.
Who would you describe as a PR hero or villain?
I have more than one, but as they are true heroes, they wouldn’t want to be mentioned by name. These leaders believe in the power and value of public relations. As well, executives who don’t consider PR as the “last step” in an organization’s work, but rather the first one.
When a leader puts the organization’s relationships first, understands the value of public relations in building those relationships, and doesn’t relegate the profession to one of “spin,” that person is my PR hero.
What do you most value in your professional contacts?
The diversity of knowledge and experience of my professional contacts (both through employment and association volunteer work) is impressive. I also appreciate the sense of community. My professional contacts and colleagues are generous with their time and talent, and are always available to provide advice or information. They set examples I hope to follow.
Have you ever been influenced by a PR campaign?
Many times—I am their dream audience member! I cry at the commercials, I donate to the cause and I am a sucker for a “call to action.” Most recently, it has been the amazing PSA campaigns targeting distracted driving, especially due to smartphone use. I admit, in the past, to being an occasional “‘glance,” but now I’ve completely cut out all smartphone use in my car and it is due to the relevant PR campaigns to which I was exposed.
Where would you most like to practise PR?
Disney headquarters. Seriously. But I do consider myself very fortunate to practise public relations in Canada, as I’ve had opportunities to work for governments at the provincial and federal levels, and my various roles have meant opportunities to practise PR around the globe. Representing my country abroad has been a huge honour.
Has a novel, film, play or other work of fiction ever influenced you as a PR practitioner?
I’m not sure I’ve been influenced by any work of fiction overtly, but there is a line in the book Primary Colors, by Joe Klein, that struck me. It’s where the main character, a political staffer, is accused of having “TB” (or “true believerism”). In various positions, I’ve been prone to TB, whether in economic development, working to commemorate the service and sacrifice of our veterans, or ensuring energy development is safe and environmentally responsible.
Who do you think has great public relations?
That’s a difficult answer to pinpoint because great PR always seems fleeting. I will offer that Canada as a country has good public relations, and a solid brand. When it comes to specific (international and national) organizations, the Red Cross and Médecins Sans Frontières come to mind.
Which real, historical or fictional person or brand would you like to give a reputation makeover?
I find this question difficult to answer because we know (or should appreciate) that public relations can’t fix an underlying problem. One organization I think could benefit from a current “do-over” would be Nestlé Canada and the issues arising with its strategy to secure continued access to inexpensive well water rights in Wellington, Ontario to bottle and sell it. I think that while the “partnership” approach it is seeking may address issues Wellington (and area) residents have raised, this global company could have avoided months of controversy with a different approach.
Who is your favourite writer?
It depends on circumstance. If I’m at work, I’m reading Simon Sinek or Jon Ronson or just about any article published in the Harvard Business Review. I just finished Wab Kinew’s The Reason You Walk and loved his book.
When I am on vacation, reading is my escape, so I turn to fiction, usually Nora Roberts, J.R. Ward or Karen Robards.
What one thing is essential to your PR life?
I’m deeply interested in what’s going on in the world outside my field or specific sector, and find it shocking when PR colleagues says they don’t follow the media—I do hear that! Understanding the social, economic, and political environment around you is crucial, so staying current on local, national, and global events is essential to me.
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 Canadian Public Relations Society—because it provides so much more than networking. From professional development to accreditation, CPRS has been an important and necessary part of my career. I also belong to the Market Research Intelligence Association, which I believe helps me better understand how research and data analytics helps drive effective public relations.
Where do you most like to do your professional networking?
It depends on my mood. I’m an extrovert, so I appreciate face-to-face events such as seminars and large conferences. Lately, I’ve been enjoying intimate discussion groups more and more, especially as my schedule gets more hectic.
What’s the best career decision you ever made?
Becoming accredited in public relations. Achieving my APR from CPRS made a huge difference in my confidence and in how I was perceived by non-PR colleagues. At the core, earning my APR changed how I practised public relations and it definitely made me more disciplined.
What skills and abilities do you think tomorrow’s PR leaders need?
I think the fundamentals remain the same as today: The ability to provide strategic counsel, and excellent writing and storytelling skills. I believe what is changing is the need to focus on data and measurement of programs and campaigns. Sure, there is a link to return on investment (ROI), but it goes beyond that.
Increasingly public relations is rooted in research, data analysis and measurement; future PR leaders need to be ready to respond with related answers.
Which talent would you most like to have?
Aside from the talent to play an instrument, I dream of having more abilities that are creative. For example, the ability to draw or graphic design—it would be great to depict, visually, what’s going on in my head! It’s likely that’s why I focus on storytelling, to try and draw pictures with words.
How would you like to end your PR career?
Sigh, I turned 50 this past year, and I’m trying to avoid this question. I think when I am ready to slow down—I refuse to say end—I’d like to do more in-depth writing projects or perhaps some consulting or teaching.
How would you describe the current state of public relations?
I’m so excited about where public relations is right now. When I meet or hire new practitioners and see how much they bring to the table, I’m convinced this translates to fantastic opportunities to improve our profession overall.
My son, Andrew, works in public relations and I’m fascinated by his perspective; this is not just about the current state of the discipline, but on where he believes we are headed, and the importance placed on strong PR leaders in the development of the next generation of public relations practitioners.
What is your PR motto?
Well this year, during my term as president of the Canadian Public Relations Society, it has been #CPRSProud.
Normally I don’t have a specific PR motto, but I do have a quote on my whiteboard at work. It’s from a talk given by American General Mark Welsh where he says, “Leadership is a gift, given by those who follow.”
Kim Blanchette, APR, FCPRS, is the vice president of public affairs for the Alberta Energy Regulator, Alberta’s single regulator responsible for the safe and environmentally responsible development of oil, oil sands, natural gas and coal.
Blanchette’s career in public relations spans close to 25 years and has included work at the provincial, federal, and international levels. From economic development and energy to international relations and commemorating the sacrifices of Canada’s veterans, Blanchette has had the opportunity to work in a variety of sectors at home and abroad.
Accredited in public relations (APR), Kim Blanchette is honoured to be serving as the national president of the Canadian Public Relations Society (CPRS); in 2016 she was inducted into the CPRS College of Fellows.
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 PRoust Questionnaire.)
Earlier PRoust Questionnaire respondents: