Having been around the block a while, I believe I have a good understanding of the personal characteristics that are commonly found in a successful PR professional. At a minimum, these are the traits of the folks we seek when filling key positions here at Matter Communications. In my humble opinion, PR people need to be…
What's the end goal? That's what PR people need to consider, frankly more often than they do typically. The PR activities we execute daily establish a company - put it on the map - or contribute to a larger initiative designed to help it do more business. While vague, that's appropriately described. Before acting, a PR person needs to determine: how does the desired result contribute to the bigger picture of business success?
Flexible, nimble, go with the flow
I can't think of a business/career/gig that requires as much flexibility as public relations and social media. Plans, particularly those of clients, change with nutty regularity. The successful PR pro needs to adapt and, throughout any transition, help clients achieve communications and business success no matter the programmatic direction. Social media channels present the very obvious need to be nimble: one Facebook post can change the tone of a day. In addition to being reactive and responsive, PR practitioners need to have the ability to professionally deal with whatever comes their way.
Writing skills, a must have
To be great at PR, one needs to have decent/good/better writing skills. While content development has taken on a more expansive meaning of late, the foundation of the gig is still in keystrokes. Verbal articulation, creative thinking, and a positive personality are all obviously critical characteristics for any profession, but in PR better-than-basic writing skills are imperative, with colleagues and clients demanding everything from compelling blog posts to finely crafted press releases and everything in between.
Early in a career, be a sponge
Becoming a well-rounded, consistently reliable and savvy PR person takes work. The ramp-up to achieving such a lofty standard varies greatly depending on the individual, but no entry-level professional punches into a new job and immediately begins counseling the world's biggest brands on the highest-profile communications issues. Most newbies make an impact – please see my earlier post about Millennials kicking ass and taking names – but there's a difference between that impact and other more senior decision-making. There's so much to learn in PR on a daily basis, and that's one of the reasons I've loved being a PR guy since I first interned in the field. And, there are plenty of dynamite bosses and colleagues to learn from - another reason I've loved my career. The best young professionals “get” that experience can be gained from closely watching co-workers, carefully noting their accomplishments, and learning from their challenges.
Later in a career, don't be afraid of learning more
As the expression goes, learning is endless, and that's so true when it comes to the ever-evolving PR field. There's so much to gain in every interaction with a colleague or a client, and in every first-hand experience - from a methodical, well-laid out plan to a crisis situation. The best PR practitioners know to embrace all that is happening around them and best leverage that data to improve as professionals.
You have to care about news
No matter the market, category, or industry any PR person works within, they need to care about what is happening, both in their core sector and in the broader world. They need to be on top of news and trends, so that they can leverage what they know to craft story ideas that best position their client, topic, etc. within the most timely, topical conversations being had in the media and on the street.
PR people get shot-down often. It's a common occurrence, and there's nothing wrong with that. Amid great editorial success, we get shot-down pitching more than our fair share of story ideas, bylined articles, and profile pieces. While we enjoy much strategic and tactical success when working with clients, we also get shot down presenting ideas for new programs or programmatic approaches. It's part of the business – and you need to roll with the circumstance. Critique and criticism are common, and solid PR pros learn from their misfires and grow stronger from those experiences.
Have I missed anything important? If so, let me know.
Scott Signore is principal and CEO of Matter Communications.