How Can We Be Like Betty White?

From a Super Bowl Snickers commercial in January, a new TV Land series and hosting Saturday Night Live last week, 88-year-old actress Betty White is the hottest property in show business, proving that old-timers can still resonate with a mass audience, especially when they are as likeable as White.

The likeability factor is one that all of us in the communications field can identify with. We all want to be liked by our peers, clients, staff and media.  However, being liked is one thing.  Establishing credibility is more important.  A lesson we can learn from Betty White as communicators is to stay within ourselves.

It sounds like a well-worn sports cliché but it’s true.  Public relations professionals that try to do things outside of their scope of expertise will ultimately get burned. It’s one thing to attempt a new challenge by taking on an account or project outside of your comfort zone. It’s another thing to over promise on capabilities when you know that there’s no way you can deliver at your normal quality.

Betty White had her own show in the 1950’s and then guest starred on numerous television series, including a myriad of guest appearances on Password, the game show hosted by her late husband, Alan Ludden.  White was comfortable being part of a team with Ludden and then becoming a memorable part of one of the greatest ensemble casts in television history, playing the sassy Sue Ann Nivens, the happy home marker on the Mary Tyler Moore show.

White was the ultimate team player. She later joined another famous ensemble on The Golden Girls  playing Rose Nylund.

What can communicators learn from Betty White?

–          Be yourself.  Everyone cannot be the Mary Tyler Moore character Mary Richards. Use your personality traits to create your own persona and bring out the Sue Ann Nivens in you.

–          Don’t oversell.  You get in trouble when you promise more than you can deliver.  Take on the tasks that you have strength in and don’t overextend yourself just to prove yourself.  Everyone doesn’t have to be the star or leader. You might pull off an Emmy-Award winning performance too in a supporting role.

–          Stay connected. Betty White has never stopped working, seemingly reinventing herself numerous times along the way. However, she never stopped being Betty White.  No matter how many positions or jobs you hold, make sure to stay connected with your contacts and keep adapting and reinventing the real you.  Just don’t disappear.

–          Respect your elders.  You can never stop learning.  Feed off the knowledge of the Betty White’s in your circle of contacts. You might learn a thing or two and even get a few chuckles from that old codger in the office.

–          Don’t be afraid.  When faced with that next presentation, don’t sweat it. Just think, if an 88-year-old can host Saturday Night Live, what’s so hard about what you do?


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