I spent some of this week chatting with a lawyer and what struck me was that for this particular lawyer modesty was not the best policy. Now you might say that for a PR man to comment on a lawyer’s modesty is the pot calling the kettle black, as PR men are usually not the most self-deprecating.
But I look at the example of my brother (also a solicitor), who is one of the most talented, successful professionals one can imagine in terms of intellectual recognition, status, fortune; yet, the most incredibly modest man. He is so very modest that he listened patiently at a drinks party for half an hour as a trainee solicitor he didn’t know him rather patronisingly lectured him on the law, without embarassing him by pointing out, during or after, that he was in fact speaking to one of the most prominent corporate lawyers in europe.
PR men and women, of which I’m one, are not traditionally the greatest when it comes to modesty or straight talking. Over-exaggeration can seem like the mode default of many a PR. This is why it is often difficult for clients to get straight talk from their PRs. So if you find a PR you can trust and whose advice is not sycophantic, stick with them. And if you don’t think your PR is the brightest man or woman in the room, get rid, because charm alone doesn’t cut it.
And as with my modest brother, discovering someone’s incrediblely talented by simply observing what they’ve achieved, rather than having it broadcast to you by them, is something to be valued.
So the many modest and highly successful PRs and marketeers I’ve worked with- (to name but a handful: Jim Dowling, Richard Miller, Steve Marks, Sam Parlane, Asad Rehman, my colleagues at Lucre)- and of course to my modest brother, I salute you.