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PRoust Questionnaire: Catherine Arrow

December 10, 2013


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. 

PRoust Questionnaire answers from Catherine Arrow, Fellow CIPR, Fellow PRINZ and Global Alliance Board Member:


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

I’m inquisitive and tenacious.


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

I probably ask too many questions. But, then again, you can’t ask too many questions. Don’t you think?


3.  What is your favourite occupation in PR?

I’m hard pressed to single out one aspect. Great satisfaction comes when senior executives and their organisations understand how public relations can help them do good and do well. I also really enjoy seeing delegates head off enthused and ready for action after I’ve delivered a development session. Lecturing at our universities is always a delight—the spark and challenge emerging from the students keeps me on my toes.


4.  Why do you work in PR?

To help people build the relationships they need so they can operate effectively and contribute to societal good.


5.  What is your idea of PR nirvana?

Watching the penny drop around a boardroom table—the reality dawning on the leadership team that they can’t function without effective public relations. I love those moments as it always means change for the better and some productive relationship building ahead.


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

When we fail to help people understand what public relations is about and what it can achieve. Also, when the profession is either siloed or whittled down to tactics.


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

Lifelong learner, emotionally intelligent, great listener and a fast worker.


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

A reluctance to learn and listen. Also, the propensity to dictate solutions before assessing and understanding a situation.


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

Heroes: Tim Marshall for his creativity, insight and absolute belief in the profession; Professor Anne Gregory, for, among many other things, her work in closing the gap between academics and practitioners, plus being the first woman to lead the Global Alliance; and Toni Muzi Falconi for his ability to initiate critical professional conversations across continents.

Finally, the thousands of practitioners who get on with the job and make a difference every day, despite limited resources and other constraints.

(I tend not to condemn anyone to villainy….)


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

Kindness, discernment and humour.


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

Yes. I travel a lot and am now well versed in airline emergency protocol thanks to Air New Zealand’s long-term safety video programme. The series began several years ago and it informs, entertains and engages. The series kicked off with one featuring the CEO sporting nothing but body paint; since time we’ve had Hobbits, keep fit, cartoons, Betty White and all sorts of others.


12. Where would you most like to practice PR?

Here in New Zealand by the beach is just fine by me. I’m fortunate enough to work elsewhere in the world, too, so I have the opportunity to encounter and engage with other cultures and communication styles.


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

Not as a practitioner, but many and varied works of all types have influenced me as a person.


14. Who do you think has great public relations?

Air New Zealand, IBM and Giapo.


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

Here in New Zealand it would be good to tackle Fonterra or Qantas.

Elsewhere in the world I’d like to have a quiet word with Facebook, Apple and Google before their actions gobble up their reputational capital.


16. Who is your favourite writer?

This is a hard question. I am a voracious reader and different writers are like weather conditions, each suiting a particular mood, activity or need, so my “favourite” would be determined by a particular moment.

If you put me in a library and insisted I pick a tome I would dither between Shakespeare, Tolkien, C.S. Lewis and Wilfred Owen.


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

Regular laughter. Or at the very least, a good chortle.


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 belong to several that have been kind enough to have me as a member. Chief among them are the Public Relations Institute of New Zealand in the south and the Chartered Institute of Public Relations up north. Both are members of the Global Alliance for Public Relations and Communication, where I currently serve as secretary. The before-mentioned Professor Anne Gregory leads the Global Alliance; she became its chair in July 2013.

Public relations professional associations are vital in bringing practitioners together, setting standards for practice in their various domains, establishing values, guiding ethical practice, and helping the wider world understand the value of the work we do. Collectively these associations help us figure out what’s changed and what we need to do about it. Membership provides some surety to the external community in a world where anyone can stick a sign on the door saying “PR.”


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

At the local beach café or on the ferry into the city.


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

Establishing my own consultancy and training operation more than 20 years ago.


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

Courage, courtesy, confidence and the ability to deal with constant change.


22. Which talent would you most like to have?

For a brief moment I was a clown in a circus, which meant I could watch the trapeze artists soar above me—I’ve often felt it would be wonderful to have that ability. Or to be an Olympic-calibre ice dancer. There are a hundred other things I’d love to have a go at.


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

Sharing knowledge and encouraging the phenomenal young talent coming through. In turn, learning from them. Hopefully they’ll come and have a coffee with me at the beach.


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

In a state of flux, potentially standing on the edge of the relevancy/irrelevancy precipice. Each practitioner is faced with the challenge of demonstrating the value of public relations to those with whom they work. It is still evident that people don’t understand what public relations is and what it does. This is a significant problem that needs to be addressed.


25. What is your PR motto?

Nothing is so simple that it cannot be misunderstood.


Source: PR Conversations