Jacob Streiter
Jacob Streiter

Tell me, what is your biggest weakness?

Let me guess: it’s that you’re a perfectionist.

Great, you’re in luck. Why? Because this is the day that you finally overcome your perfectionism. And if it adds any credibility: you can trust me because, well, I’m a former perfectionist myself.

Now consider these PR industry truths:

The world of PRand every single person in itwill always be inherently flawed and imperfect. To clarify, this truth isn’t exactly exclusive to PR. Rather, it’s a rule that applies to every human being and every human-run industry. It applies to you, to me, our co-workers, our client contacts, our media contacts and everyone in between. Consequently, expecting and seeking perfection, whether from ourselves or others, will always be a recipe for failure and frustration.

Mistakes are inevitable. Not only are mistakes inevitable, but they’re necessary and fundamental for learning and growth. Not to mention, how do you make an impact in PR? By taking risks, which means making yourself vulnerable to the possibility of missteps and misjudgments. It’s simply unavoidable; you will make mistakes. And so will your co-workers. And your boss. And your clients. And your media contacts, even the ones that are your favorites.

Tradeoffs are inevitable, too. When you’re a high performer, you’re naturally going to become someone that often gets asked to take on incoming assignments. But just because you have the capability of doing an A+ job on a given assignment, that doesn’t mean an A+ effort on that particular task or project is the wisest use of your time. The lesson here: accepting “good enough” for your less important work makes room for “great” on your high-impact, high-priority work.

The sooner you are comfortable and at peace with each of those truths, the more empowered and effective you will be as a PR professional.

A Mindset Shift

Harvard Business Review recently published an article by Greg McKeown, "To Build a Top Performing Team, Ask for 85% Effort." The article’s takeaways support the general idea that always striving for 100 percent effort—and 100 percent perfection—is not only unrealistic and unsustainable, but ultimately counterproductive.

While I used to look at situations and obstacles as problems to be “fixed,” now I try to view them as circumstances to be navigated in order to reach the best possible (but still likely imperfect) outcome.

And I encourage you to shift towards that mindset. I also encourage you to give yourself permission to put less time and attention into lower-priority work, so that more of your energy and focus can be allocated to high-impact activities like crafting that punchy pitch to the New York Times, drafting that client byline on a nuanced issue and brainstorming your client’s next big idea that generates a wave of headlines.

A Confession

Now, I have a confession to make. Earlier I called myself a former perfectionist—but, truth is, it would be more accurate to say I’m a perfectionist in recovery.

I don’t believe that the trait of perfectionism ever goes away completely. But what can happen, in my own experience at least, is cultivation of an ability to tap into it with higher levels of awareness, discernment and control. In other words: your perfectionism can become a tool that, at your command, you switch on and off.

Harness that ability properly, and your greatest weakness will turn into your greatest strength. But if that process takes time, and there are setbacks along the way, please do yourself a favor and try not to be so hard on yourself.

After all, nobody’s perfect, right?


Jacob Streiter is vice president at Rosen Group, a full-service public relations firm headquartered in New York City. Prior to joining Rosen Group, he led marketing and communications at a Detroit-based startup.