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 Stuart Bruce:
1. What is your most striking characteristic as a PR practitioner?
Flexibility and breadth, which doesn’t mean I’m a fat gymnast. A PR professional has to have the flexibility to respond quickly and intelligently to an infinite number of scenarios and have a broad range of skills and knowledge.
2. What is your principal fault as a PR practitioner?
Flexibility and breadth. That wide base of knowledge and skills that is essential to a good PR professional mean I risk being a jack of all trades as I could never master a specialist area such as engineering, law or medicine enough to actually practice it.
3. What is your favourite occupation in PR?
Counselling senior management, politicians and civil servants to understand how PR is about what you do, not what you say… And to cheat with two favourites – training and mentoring PR professionals to adapt their practice to the digital and social age.
4. Why do you work in PR?
Variety. I constantly need new stimulation, to learn new things and face new challenges. PR is one of the most varied professions on earth.
5. What is your idea of PR nirvana?
Heading up comms for something that really matters – a national election campaign (anywhere in the world will do as long as it is for a centre or centre left candidate/party), ending the global sale of tobacco, detoxifying the nuclear power industry. Just little things, really.
6. What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery in PR?
Clients who mislead you or don’t tell you the whole story when they want you to help with an issue.
7. What qualities do you most admire in a PR practitioner?
Ethics, morality, honesty and professionalism.
8. What qualities do you most dislike in a PR practitioner?
Lying and spin, but above all a willingness to work for anyone no matter how dubious the cause or client.
9. Who would you describe as a PR hero or villain?
Alastair Campbell is much maligned and misunderstood. He is not the ogre that many make him out to be. He has ‘sinned’, but not nearly as often as he has been accused. But most importantly Alistair played a monumental role in making the UK and the world a better place to live. He made a difference.
The value of that is incalculable. Listen to Alistair now and he truly understands how the old ‘command and control’ that he was a master of has no place in the world as it is now. Alistair is one of my PR heroes.
There are far too many PR villains to mention as there is a surfeit of amateurs masquerading as professionals and publicists claiming to be PRs.
10. What do you most value in your professional contacts?
There are so many excellent practitioners I know it’s almost unfair to single one out. However, Edelman’s David Brain is one that I believe truly understands the ethics, practice and changing nature of PR and harnesses this knowledge to grow a successful business – first in EMEA and now in APAC. Most importantly he walks the talk.
11. Have you ever been influenced by a PR campaign?
Real PR is never a campaign so I can safely say no. However, I have undoubtedly been influenced by publicity campaigns. Currently I’m desperate to own a Microsoft Surface tablet and read the reviews and watch the TV ads in envy.
12. Where would you most like to practise PR?
In recent years I’ve done more and more work outside in the UK in the rest of Europe and the Middle East. I want to do even more and would love to do some training and consultancy in the Asia Pacific region as well as increasing the amount of work I do in the USA. I also love the idea of moving with my family and working overseas for an extended period.
13. Has a novel, film, play or other work of fiction ever influenced you as a PR practitioner?
Foreign Correspondent. A much under-rated early Hitchcock from 1940 made to help convince people in the USA to enter WWII to support Great Britain.
The final lines showed me the power of words and emotion and made me want to pursue communications as a career:
“Johnny Jones: Hello, America. I’ve been watching a part of the world being blown to pieces. A part of the world as nice as Vermont, and Ohio
Johnny Jones: , and Virginia, and California, and Illinois lies ripped up and bleeding like a steer in a slaughterhouse, and I’ve seen things that make the history of the savages read like Pollyanna legends. I’ve seen women…
[bombs begin exploding]
English Announcer: It’s a raid; we shall have to postpone the broadcast.
Johnny Jones: Oh, postpone, nothing! Let’s go on as long as we can.
English Announcer: Madam, we have a shelter downstairs.
Johnny Jones: How about it, Carol?
Carol Fisher: They’re listening in America, Johnny.
Johnny Jones: Okay, we’ll tell ’em, then. I can’t read the rest of the speech I had, because the lights have gone out, so I’ll just have to talk off the cuff.
All that noise you hear isn’t static – it’s death, coming to London. Yes, they’re coming here now. You can hear the bombs falling on the streets and the homes. Don’t tune me out, hang on a while – this is a big story, and you’re part of it. It’s too late to do anything here now except stand in the dark and let them come… as if the lights were all out everywhere, except in America. Keep those lights burning, cover them with steel, ring them with guns, build a canopy of battleships and bombing planes around them. Hello, America, hang on to your lights: they’re the only lights left in the world!”
14. Who do you think has great public relations?
Few will ever match what Tony Blair achieved with New Labour. He understood that reputation is a result of what you do, what you say and what others say about you.
15. Which real, historical or fictional person or brand would you like to give a reputation makeover?
Robert the Bruce who has been unfairly outshone by Mel Gibson’s William Wallace, when in fact it was Bruce who did most to achieve Scottish independence. Although it’s a shame his name is now being misappropriated by Scottish nationalists who seek to break up the United Kingdom. Bruce won independence from an English invader, today’s union was chosen and created by its nations in the understanding that together we can achieve more than we can alone.
16. Who is your favourite writer?
JRR Tolkien. His mastery of detail, vivid imagination and colourful use of words brought an entire world to life before my eyes as I turned the pages. A joy as a young teenager when I first read Lord of the Rings and it’s just as wonderful today on yet another reading.
17. What one thing is essential to your PR life?
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?
I’ve been an active member of the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) for almost 25 years since I was a student.
For much of this time I was unhappy with the CIPR’s performance, but in recent years it has really upped its game. I’m a big believer in you should be in the tent and fighting your corner, not standing outside p*****g in! I’m a founder member of its Social Media Panel and have just been elected to serve a three year term on its national Council.
Recently I’ve also been impressed by the European Association of Communication Directors (EACD) which is why I’m joining it and about to become more active.
19. Where do you most like to do your professional networking?
It’s 2013 there isn’t a single place. Networking is constant and there is no longer a clear distinction between the personal and the professional. Perhaps the two most useful are meeting new people when I speak at conferences and then strengthening those real world relationships via Twitter.
20. What’s the best career decision you ever made?
I’ve made lots of great decisions and lots of not so great ones, but I believe things can always get better so never look back.
21. What skills and abilities do you think tomorrow’s PR leaders need?
The same as they’ve always needed: Curiosity, flexibility and ‘smartness’ which is better than pure intelligence.
22. Which talent would you most like to have?
Foreign languages. It is my eternal regret that when I was younger I didn’t master a foreign tongue as once you’ve learned one it becomes easier to learn new ones.
23. How would you like to end your PR career?
Having made a difference to help improve my country and the world. Pretentious I know, but I can’t help caring.
24. How would you describe the current state of public relations?
Full of potential, but with not enough professionals to help realise it.
25. What is your PR motto?
The science of public relations down to a fine art.
Stuart Bruce, MCIPR, is an international trainer and consultant specialising in digital corporate communications, online PR, digital public affairs and social media for private sector and government clients in the UK, Europe and the Middle East. He is a part-time lecturer to post-graduate and under-graduate students at Leeds Metropolitan University and is a co-author of Share This: The Social Media Handbook for PR Professionals.
Stuart has just been elected to the national council of the UK’s Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) and is a founder member of its social media panel. He is regularly listed in PRWeek’s Power Book of the UK’s top 1% of most influential PR people and is also a regular speaker at international PR and communications conferences.
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: