“What is…” Wednesday – What is PR Coaching? Alan Cohen’s Take

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Ever had to have “the talk?”

No, I do not mean the talk that awkwardly occurs between parents and pre-teen children!

I mean the talk with clients, co-workers and even bosses where criticism must be given.

Just thinking about conflict-focused conversations like that gives me, with the mental and emotional makeup of many public relations people (extroverted yet un-confrontational), the hives – but, according to author Alan Cohen, these talks are necessary for any successful business person.

Alan’s latest book, “Tough Talks for PR Pros: How to Best Say what Needs to be Said to Clients, Colleagues and Employees,” not only touches on this topic, but gives practical advice for PR folks like me. As part of the celebration surrounding the new book, Alan will be a presenter at the PRSA Western District Conference in Denver in March, and coaching me, among others, on how to frame tough talks in a constructive light.

More details here.

So, on this “What is…” Wednesday – we must ask:


Alan, what is PR Coaching?
I think I have the best job in the world, coaching and training PR executives.

Why is that?

First of all, I think PR people are some of the most interesting, dynamic, creative folks out there, so having the opportunity on a daily basis to be inspired by them makes my job pretty great.

Second,  before I became a certified professional coach, I was a PR practitioner for over 20 years, both on the agency and client side, which allowed me the opportunity to work on dozens of high profile campaigns -- from Harry Potter to the Broadway stagehand's strike -- or in other words, from pure fantasy to harsh reality.  I have walked in the shoes of most of the people I coach – from agency principal to account executive.

I've enjoyed some great success, but I also know what it's like to feel burned out; to have to fight for my place at the table, to have to work for bosses half my -- to deal with shrinking budgets and unreasonable clients, to be challenged ethically, and to feel as though my job is running me rather than the other way around.

As a coach, I help PR executives stay at the top of their game and navigate the ever- changing landscape of their industries.  The 24/7 news cycle and hard economic times have left PR pros often feeling without choice, burned out, and creatively unexpressed. They need objective support.

I coach them on how to become more effective as leaders within their organizations, and help address those difficult situations that may be placing a drain on inspiration, creativity, productivity and resourcefulness.   One of the most common things I see is PR folks having difficulty addressing conflict and giving and receiving feedback. Largely an extroverted group, PR folks just don’t like ticking people off.  Much of my work is helping them have the tough talks with greater ease.

When I was climbing the ranks in PR, I didn't have much coaching, and with the exception of the occasional mentor, I pretty much learned by the seat of my pants.

Coaching is not mentoring, consulting, advising or friendship.  It is a unique modality that empowers the individual to find their own way, with less stress and greater results.   Coaching is coming out of the closet these days and I expect that in a few years it will be more “who is your coach,” rather than “what is coaching.”


Alison Bailin
Alison Bailin
Senior Account Executive Alison has a lot to say…about pretty much everything...all the time. From the current state of public relations to the social media impact on Shark Week to crisis communications in the sports world, Alison’s blogs are focused on “amusing through her PR musings,” and then some. Check out Alison's full bio


  1. There certainly is satisfaction in helping someone bring out the best in themselves.

  2. Alan Cohen says:

    Yes. Each person is greater than they appear to be. As coaches and leaders, our job is to help each individual see the truth of who they are, and help remove the blocks that get in the way of their realizing their full potential.

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