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Bea Arthur at PRSA National Conference: Success, Psychology and Making Mistakes Along the Way

At the PRSA National Conference in Boston, Massachusetts, this past October, entrepreneur, licensed therapist and Forbes contributor Bea Arthur spoke to hundreds of public relations professionals, as well as students attending from the PRSSA National Conference down the street, about her unique perspective on success, pitching and a new form of public relations. As a founder of multiple businesses (Pretty Padded Room, The Difference) dedicated to revolutionizing the way people receive therapy and mental health resources, Arthur has built not only a health and wellness brand around herself, but a brand of entrepreneurial spirit and business savvy. Her young age only exemplifies her success, to which she continuously stressed the secret is resilience. With strength, stamina and stubbornness, she claimed you could accomplish anything. Where do you start? “All you need is an obsession,” she said. She then invited volunteers to pitch their ideas to her in front of the entire ballroom. She gave critiques and suggestions on all of them, coming up with new ways for them to phrase their selling points on the spot and encouraging them as well as everyone in the room to begin looking at psychology as a new way to approach public relations. Whether you are writing copy, pitching a client’s business or just communicating with someone in the press, so much of public relations is rooted in pitching, and so much of pitching is rooted in psychology. She encouraged everyone in the room to think about not only who they are pitching to, whether it be the press, investors or customers, but also the mindset of the person on the receiving end of the pitch. Are they a member of the press looking for why they should tell their audience your story? Are they busy investors looking for less buzzwords, more actions? Are they customers looking for the reward in what you’re selling? No matter what, she said, the art of a great pitch is all about answering three questions: what you are doing, who you are doing it for, and why you are doing it. Despite being a woman of color under the age of 30, Arthur did not seem to feel any pressure to tone herself down or to prove herself to the large ballroom full of seasoned professionals. In fact, on top of giving practical advice on entrepreneurship, she openly spoke about the mistakes she has made in her career, from what she deemed an “embarrassing” appearance on the television show “Shark Tank” to the failure of her first startup, which led to her being so in debt she had to couch-surf until she found her footing. She spoke about these failures with the confidence of someone who believes in themselves. According to her, these were only bumps in the road, and they helped her understand how to properly pitch ideas and use her knowledge of psychology to get what she wants. Being in the room, it was easy to tell that her attitude and outlook on life, which resembled someone with more strength and endurance to last a lifetime, were truly inspiring to all. “The best part about going through hell,” she said, “is that you come out on fire.”  By Emily Hillhouse, VP of Diversity and Inclusion



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