“Good help is hard to find” is a common expression in the world of public relations. We’re also a fan of the phrase, “ You can teach skills, but not attitude. When an agency or an in-house department needs to hire public relations staff, there are a few key traits that new hires should have:
These skills include the ability to write well, speak well, and to listen well. PR is writing-intensive with the need to produce press releases, presentations, marketing collateral, articles, and short content such as social media posts. Writing skills can be developed by learning to outline and plan what you want to say, editing your text to assure it is concise and can be easily understood by the intended audience. Speaking well means being able to speak with clients, editors, and end users and to be able to speak the language of each group and to translate terminology across these groups. Listening well helps the PR person to meet the need of each group.
A PR person needs to go with the flow and adapt to changes in tactic and timing. The product launch is set for August 15 and the team has the press release ready when suddenly the engineers realize that the product will not be ready in time. Quick thinking and a change in direction is needed and the PR person cannot be too rigid in following the original plan. The PR person also needs to know how to change course quickly when a reporter calls needing information an hour ago to finish a story. That reporter cannot be told, I’ll get to you tomorrow after I finish writing my article. The PR pro must learn to change course quickly without losing one’s cool. A PR pro also needs to be flexible in taking a No and turning it into a Yes or learning not to take the No personally.
Interest in the topic/space
It is very difficult to write about a topic and to pitch a story to a media outlet when the PR person has no interest in the topic being pitched. If you are not interested in the client and their space, at least the PR person should be at a minimum be curious and interested in learning about new topics and may surprise themselves when they are suddenly interested in deep tech topics such as application delivery controllers. It is also important to be interested in current events in order to link client news to larger industry issues and to “trendjack” when necessary.
Ability to tell a story
Media are interested in reporting stories that are of interest to their readers and help to solve their pain points. It makes a dry story to talk only about the features of a product and nothing about “what’s in it for me.” It is also important that features have a news element to them because otherwise the article will read like an advertisement, which is not what editors want. PR pros need creativity to find the story and learn to ask the questions that will elicit the story. Creativity is also critical when a change in strategy is needed.
It’s Public Relations, baby, which means that a PR pro needs to understand the value of relationships. They need to be the bridge that leads to long-lasting relationships between clients and the media and influencers who touch their key audiences.
A PR pro needs to be concerned with making sure all the Ts are crossed and Is dotted such as assuring the client is prepared for media meetings, assets are ready. PR folks need to be prepared to deal with small issues before they become big problems and to anticipate needs.
Good luck in finding the right people to join your team.