Pinning down the exact qualities that make someone a success in PR is a hard task. Some bloggers don’t bother to delve deeper than the obvious; organised, good communicator, able to multitask. But I’m not sure that goes very far in demonstrating why you would be a great PR, rather than just a good employee, or the PR skills you have to offer.
Then there are those who are oddly specific, or even philosophical about the task, perhaps romanticising their own qualities or copying directly from their own CV when they recommend that you are able to synchronise swim and own at least one Blue Peter badge.
So what makes this list any closer to the truth? Well, I have decided to focus not on what will make you a successful PR, but what a career in PR would be unsuccessful without.
Most of the people I know who work in PR are naturally curious, prone to asking questions and able to think laterally and draw hidden meaning from text and speech. This is a hugely important personality trait demanded by the sector, not only useful in researching around your client, their specialisms and their spokespeople, but also in discerning how best to showcase their strengths.
Once this kind of research is completed, a good PR will draw together some ideas of how to go about this task; the right media, the best news stories to piggyback, the way the client wishes to be portrayed.
Yet a great PR will not, their insight is much more cutting. You will know exactly which journalists are likely to write about a certain topic, you will push back on clients when one of their employees might not be right for a certain publication, you will be able to find a story from information or data and pitch it in the right way.
So, you now have your pitch preened to perfection, the ideas are robust and, more importantly, relevant. You are ready to stride into that journalist’s office and slam your idea down on their desk – on the top of the pile, it’s that good. Well, slam it down metaphorically. Via email.
Here lies the problem. Without seeing your confident stride and your air of assurance, the journalist can’t differentiate your pitch from the hundreds of others landing in their inbox unless you have nailed the title. And, even if you have, there are a hundred other reasons a journalist may miss it. The key here is to keep trying, keep emailing and keep tailoring your idea to suit individual publications – follow up emails if necessary, just always keep in mind the fine line between tenacious and irritating.
This continual rejection isn’t for the weak of heart. In fact, urban legend says PR professionals’ skin is four times as thick as those in any other industry. But that’s ridiculous. It’s at least five.
Sometimes, more routine practices such as pitching or ghost-writing an article must take a backseat. Situations may arise that need to be addressed immediately; a crisis, a mishap in the media, a senior employee who has embarrassed himself. Again.
The responsibility of managing clients’ reputations can sometimes fall heavily on PRs’ shoulders. The ability to keep cool in a crisis, not only to maintain a clear mind but also to reassure your client that everything is under control, is a crucial attribute. As a great PR, you must command confidence and win the client’s respect every time.
An international mindset
Lastly, what is PR if not a completely international, multi-disciplinary industry? A sector that never sleeps, and can intertwine and operate within all walks of life, careers and personal interests.
With that in mind, while a city-based or otherwise targeted approach might be useful, or even crucial, for some projects, it would be impossible for you to conduct a successful PR career without championing an international mindset. This is more complicated than you think – not only do journalists operate differently overseas, but so do business practices, management hierarchies, diversity initiatives, compliance standards and entrepreneurship or start-up spheres.
So there you have it, the definitive list. Just remember; with great knowledge, comes great power.
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