7 PR Leadership Do’s and Don’ts

Denise Vitola, managing director, Makovsky
Denise Vitola, managing director, Makovsky

When it comes to leadership, most of us have an idea of what is effective (and what isn’t) and we have all seen numerous inspirational quotes pertaining to the subject.

For instance, author John Maxwell once said, “A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way and shows the way.”

But things aren’t always that clear cut. Denise Vitola, managing director of PR agency Makovsky, observes, “When it comes to leadership, there are many people who get it right, but far too many people get it wrong. Interestingly enough, you can learn from both types of situations.”

Vitola, who will be a speaker at PR News’ Business Leadership for Communicators Boot Camp on March 14 at the National Press Club in Washington D.C., offers four PR leadership do’s and three leadership don’ts.


  1. Listen: In order to manage someone, you have to know what makes them tick. You won’t ever know what makes them tick if you don’t listen to them. You’ll be far more successful in your career and with people if you listen first, listen again, listen more and then speak. There is a reason we have two ears and one tongue. Try to be curious by nature and ask a lot of questions. You’ll learn some really neat stuff and people will know you care.
  2. Respect: We need to value and honor others. As a leader you will want respect, but you will not get it without giving it. Good leaders will lead by example and to do that they need to portray the same values they want from others, like showing people respect and admiration for themselves and their work. If you are genuine, your staff will feel much more willing to work hard, and together you will be successful.
  3. Honesty: While honesty seems so simple, it is one of the toughest areas for an organization. The majority of employees complain about the lack of transparency at their organization. In order to be honest, you need to be fair, compassionate and transparent. Not only is it important to show your staff you are completely honest with them, you need to maintain ethical and honest behavior for your clients. Honesty will go far in an organization and will build a tremendous amount of trust for you as a leader. That trust has a high cash value as it will inspire your employees to run up a hill for you.
  4. Integrity: When you tell people you are going to do something, do it. If you are not going to be able to follow through, tell them soon and tell them why. Integrity is extremely important as a leader. Employees want to know they can count on their supervisor/manager or boss to be responsible and reliable. Those people that you can count on are the ones that you’ll work harder for. A true leader leads with integrity.


  1. Limit your vision: Without a strong vision, it is hard to follow a leader. When leaders lack a strong vision, you don’t know what they want, where they are headed or where they are taking the company. It does not motivate or create long-term value. When you think of really strong leaders, like Richard Branson, you think visionary. Even though you don’t work for him, you know he has a vision that seeps into his brands.
  2. Think you have all the ideas: It is never fun working for someone who never accepts anyone else’s ideas or never affords others the opportunity to express their opinions. Good leaders value what others contribute and even better leaders know they don't have all the answers. They don’t have to be the smartest person in the room; they are there to lead, motivate and get the best ideas out of their best people.
  3. Avoid rolling up your sleeves: You want someone who will be in the trenches with you when you need them. This does not always mean when the going gets tough. This means the majority of the time, good leaders are willing to get their hands dirty and do the work. As I said before, lead by example, do what you ask your people to do and they will trust and respect you. You begin to doubt someone who does not do the work themselves.

Follow Denise Vitola: @DeniseVitola

Check out the speaker roster for PR News’ Business Leadership for Communicators Boot Camp, which will be held on March 14 in Washington, D.C.