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You need a balance of personality types in PR says Ketchum’s Susan Smith

As part of our agency’s ‘people-first’ focus, we have been learning about each other’s working styles and exploring the key traits of different personality types, in particular, ‘drivers, expressives, amiables and analysts’, to see how we can flex our own styles to work more effectively with each other. Without meaning to stereotype, PR agencies tend to be full of those more creative ‘expressive’ personality types, so we were pleasantly surprised to discover that our senior leadership team is evenly made up of all four key personality types.

With an art-school education, I assumed that I would identify as an ‘expressive’ and was at first disappointed to discover that I have an ‘analyst’ bias as it didn’t fit with how I saw myself. In utter disbelief, I did the test again and again, yet each time the results were more or less the same. In fact, when I thought about my personal preferences, it made total sense.

"I was disappointed to discover that I have an ‘analyst’ bias as it didn’t fit with how I saw myself."

This is what I learnt about us analysts, why I am one and how we contribute to teams:

  1. We’re perfectionists. ‘If a job is worth doing, it’s worth doing well’ was a phrase first introduced to my eight-year-old self by a headmaster who was berating me for giving up on my attempt to build a papier-mâché castle. Never again would I approach anything without a proper planning process and to this day, the mere thought of cutting corners conjures up the horror of those sagging castle turrets.
  1. We like a sense of order. More than once I have attracted comments from shoppers behind me in the supermarket queue who have wondered at the meticulous (their polite term for it) packing arrangement. What started as an unconscious and vaguely OCD act is now one that I encourage myself to apply daily. Sorting and ordering facts brings clarity to the problem-solving process. I like to think that I bring calm where previously there was chaos.
  1. We continually ask ‘why?’ At art school, marks were awarded for how well-researched our ideas were. I always scored highly in this part, a point of pride as the design element that followed was often found lacking. I apply the same rigour to the research element of the planning process today; you know you have done the job thoroughly when the strategy and creative idea emerge effortlessly from the insight.
  1. We’re calm in crisis. My (expressive) partner berates me for never just taking his side; I always have to play the devil’s advocate and make him walk in the other person’s shoes. My objectivity and ‘maddening’ logic simply refuses to give way to hysteria or panic. Rather, it gives me the ability to look at the issue from different angles and then break it down into manageable and eminently easy to solve parts.
  1. We LOVE process. At university, I opted for fashion design but realised too late that I might be more suited to textiles. Fast forward 20 years, I took a part time course in hand-woven textile, where the making process begins with a weave draft that looks like binary code and ends with a systematic ordering of yarn in the warp and weft. It is slow and, at times, arduous, but always the perfect weekend antidote to the week’s relentlessness. The expressive’s idea of hell? Probably. But for the analyst biased like me, this is our creative nirvana.

Written by Susan Smith, managing director, London consumer brand practice, Ketchum

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