The public relations industry is a very competitive field, full of inspired newcomers hoping to stake their claim and prove they have what it takes to climb the ranks and become a PRo. So, what does that take? Our honest answer: many, many things.
We could go on and on about all of the traits that make up some of the best of the best in our field, but we’ve narrowed our list down to five top skills all aspiring PR pros should aim to obtain and enhance as they climb the professional ladder.
1. Solid Communication Skills: This one’s a no-brainer. PR pros (and all professionals, for that matter), should be solid, effective communicators. Whether that’s being able to clearly and efficiently communicate something via email or picking up the phone to get things done live, a great PR pro is organized with their thoughts and capable of expressing those thoughts articulately. Maybe you’re someone who struggles to explain your train of thought or gets nervous when talking to the media or executives. That’s okay. You can learn and grow to be a better, more confident communicator through practice and by (lightly) scripting out what you want to say before hopping on the phone. Work with a colleague to get more comfortable speaking over the phone, or sit down in front of a mirror to get more comfortable speaking out loud. When it comes to email, read your work out loud before sending. It’s easier to find typos and other errors this way, and reading aloud will give you the confidence you need in case the recipient picks up the phone and calls you directly with a question.
2. Attention to Detail: This is an extension of communication, but it’s so important that we wanted to call it out on its own. Whether you’re scheduling an interview for a client, writing a press release (and staging it on a wire service), or pretty much anything else a job in PR will task you with, attention to detail is everything. Does your client on the West Coast have a meeting with East Coast media? Know those time conversions like the back of your hand. (Life hack: Your iPhone makes this as easy as possible inside your World Clock). Always double check even the smallest of details, because it only takes one minor mistake to throw you and your team off track. The more you train your brain to think strategically about things, the more second nature it will become for you to think two steps ahead and always be prepared. Never assume something is, or will be, taken care of. For that matter, never assume anything, period. It’s better to ask twice than never at all, and following this best practice will help you see how even the smallest details play into the bigger picture.
3. Creativity: It’s one thing to plan, pitch and earn media coverage surrounding a client announcement. It’s another thing to be able to secure coverage when you don’t have a big piece of news or press release to rely on. Proactive pitching is something NRPR Group prides itself on. We want to see more and more PR pros put on their creative thinking caps and explore new and interesting ways they can attach their clients to industry trends, helping them earn coverage even without an announcement. Great PR pros know how to switch gears and think outside the box when it seems they’ve hit a dead end for ideas. Read the news and find trends your client can tie into or speak on. Most importantly, great PR pros aren’t afraid to ask for help. Plan brainstorming sessions as a group, and have some fun with it! People are often most creative in laid back, low stress situations — so order some pizza, take a seat outside, and have each team member share their ideas. This has really helped Team NRPR come up with new creative headline ideas and pitch themes for clients, and it’s not uncommon that a team member will come up with a winning idea for an account they’re not even on!
4. Persistence: Imagine this: You read an awesome news story and get the perfect idea for a follow up piece that your client was made for. Click on over to the author of the piece, and boom — there’s his/her email address (we’ll say “her,” for this example). You send her a perfectly drafted pitch, and before you know it, she’s back in your inbox just begging to talk to your client. You set up an interview for the next day, they hit it off like old pals, and by end of week, the most amazing story that’s ever graced the internet is posted. You’re promoted to co-CEO of your company, and you live happily ever after riding off into the sunset. * Sound alarm * It’s time to wake up! While this scenario might be what some PR pros dream about, we all know this job is NOT that easy. If you’re easily discouraged or shy about following up, “PR pro” might not be in the cards for you. Working in public relations takes spark, confidence and tenacity. If at first you don’t succeed… try, try again. First follow up didn’t get a reply? Try again. And again. And again. And a few more times. If you truly believe in your story, and that this member of the media is a perfect fit to write it, have confidence and show them you mean business.
5. Flexibility: While it would be pretty cool to bust out the splits in your office, we’re referring to a different type of flexibility here. A great PR pro should aim for consistency in all that they do. However, while establishing a routine and sticking to schedules are optimal best practices, that won’t always be possible. In the fast-paced world of public relations, you’ll quickly come to learn that things can change without even a moment’s notice. Deadlines move up, interviews get postponed, and (although we don’t wish it on anyone) client emergencies DO happen. Putting out fires must take priority and be handled with care. A great PR pro understands the importance of being flexible, and not dwelling over situations when they go differently than planned. They keep their head up, eyes on the prize, and never miss a step when the unexpected is thrown their way.
In the end, all of these skills tie back to one, overarching trait at the heart of every great PR pro: a desire to learn and continually improve to become your best personal and professional self. This list is nowhere near exhaustive in terms of all the amazing traits that make up awesome PR pros. In fact, we’re just scratching the surface! Are there any other skills you think all PR pros should have that we didn’t touch on here? Let us know in the comments below!
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