Thanks to modernization of how the public connects to public entities and happenings, such as through smart devices and social media, public relations is a field that has absolutely exploded over recent years. PR is no longer a matter of catching glimpses of happenings on the nightly news if you happen to be home; no, it’s now a 24/7 industry from almost unlimited connectivity.
The explosion has created a bridge for many professionals educated or versed in akin fields like journalism to enter the realm of PR. However, many are somewhat to completely unprepared for what’s ahead of them and how to make the most of a PR career.
While being a PR rep no doubt requires certain skills and personality traits, such as being able to implement image control strategies, there’s much more to becoming a successful PR pro. And, ironically enough, a goodly portion goes back to mastering the basics.
1. Learn Your Trade
Anyone who claims to have walked off the street and become a master PR can probably pull 10 rabbits out of his crocodile tears. If you want to achieve a reputation for success, then you have to be willing to learn from those who’ve already achieved it. If you want to avoid potholes, learn from those who’ve stepped in them before you.
Novices want to make an impression as big and fast as possible. The problem is that without the learning and experience that comes from watching peers and mentors, that impression is often negative, not positive.
Reevaluate your career strategy if you hope to immediately start representing high-profile brands and names as an entry-level PR. Take the time to learn and develop.
2. Be Flexible As You Steer The Boat
Your job is to steer the client’s image in a positive direction. Not so easy a task when you consider that you’re dealing with fallible humans and entities with multiple faces, actions, and facets to consider. Flexibility is a must. Clients can make spur of the moment decisions, change plans, and create nightmarish situations overnight that moot all previous PR.
A single social media post, quote, or video snippet can be a massive wave taking your ship far off course. It’s frustrating, but a pro PR uses that wave to bring the ship to the most ideal place possible. You must be able to efficiently, expediently, and calmly handle whatever your client does.
3. Just Call Me Siri
Okay, so maybe Siri isn’t exactly right all the time, most of the time, but the point is Siri is supposed to have the answers, be in-the-know. That’s you. You’re interacting with the world and those in it on a daily basis, and to be proficient with that interaction, you must know what’s going on both inside and outside of your core circle. You then must know how to leverage and harness that past and present information in order to develop strategies to keep clients relative.
4. Knowledge Beyond What’s Required
There’s required learning. Then, there’s learning beyond what’s just necessary to get the job done, which is what you’ll find amongst the top PR pros in the business.
Know the entity you’re representing forwards and backwards. Know their customers, brand, services, careers, products, partners, employees, competitors, marketplace, objectives, weak points, strong suits, and so forth and so on. Depending on the size of the client, it can be a lot to digest, but knowing as much as you possibly can about your client can be instrumental in making fruitful PR moves.
5. Relationship Building 101
Building long-lasting, meaningful relationships with both clients, the public, and media sources is the foundation of PR.
There’s a plethora of ways to accomplish these relationships, but the main idea is to be as responsive, friendly, and helpful as possible in all situations. You’ll need to be able to establish a good rapport and bridge communication gaps immediately and then cultivate and nourish them over the long-term.
6. Think Beyond The Social Realm
In PR, it’s very easy to become so engaged and caught up in the short game of social imagery that you forget the long game of public relations, which is to constantly keep the client on the path to success. This includes a client’s profitability and how the entity advances through the consumer world.
It’s always necessary to stop and consider whether a PR move contributes to this bigger picture, not just one facet or on a task-by-task measurement.
7. Keep Your Heart Off Your Sleeve
Can you withstand criticism, constructive or not? Can you make the most out of client decisions, poor or not? Can you handle rejection, warranted or not?
This isn’t a profession for the weak- minded, spirited, or hearted. You’ve got to have thick skin and don your adult-sized undies everyday. You’re likely to fall flat on your face multiple times, and your success or failure in a PR career will be determined by your ability to shake the momentary failures, judgments, and rejections off and move forward a more learned and capable representative.
8. Articulation Skills Are A Must
Creative and accurate articulation, both verbally and in written form, are must-have skills. That’s not to say you have to have Pulitzer skills, but you do need to have the language skills and creative mindset to handle the articulation of information necessary in portals like press releases, blog posts, e-news letters, and social media posts.
Voice and tempo are also writing facets you’ll need to master for the various portals of information delivery; a blog post’s casual and compelling voice is quite different than the more carefully and professionally worded press release.
9. Maintain A Voice Of Honesty, Clarity, & Integrity
Any statement should address the issue at hand with clear, concise, and honest language. Sugarcoating, deception, and treating listeners with kid gloves will do nothing but tarnish both your reputation and that of your client.
10. Don’t Overlook The Details
Clients have never been more so under a microscopic lens than they are in today’s digital world. Of course, this also means that almost every move and statement is in some way recorded for replay over and over to look for even the most minor flubs and inconsistencies. The smallest error can quickly morph into a PR disaster.
Double check your work for accuracy and misinterpretation. Proactively look for and address tiny issues before they become public fodder. Perfection is never a guarantee, but paying attention to the details can help to avoid or correct mistakes before they turn sour.
11. Familiarize Yourself With The World Of Data
For communications, analytics is standard operating procedure today. However, analytics has evolved tremendously over the last few years. Key performance indicators are no longer just article clippings and page view numbers. It’s rare to see a PR job description that doesn’t mention Hootsuite, Moz, or Google analytics.
Unique content is vital to online competition, and research is showing a large number of clients making huge budget efforts toward photo albums, blog posts, and video interviews. This means that PR pros must be versed in the software and tools to create, edit, manage, and monitor digital content.
12. Have A Good Work Ethic.
The public relations field isn’t a 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. job. Projects often require long hours for short deadlines. The nature of the job is to be prepared for client whims, mishaps, and immediate needs at any time of the day or night.
Newbie, junior PR members are rarely charged with leading these tasks, but don’t make the mistake of leaving your senior PR team to handle the load. You can learn a lot from watching how they handle the situations. You can also built credibility, establish a committed work ethic, and make invaluable connections by volunteering to help in any way possible verses just hitting the time clock because it’s not your project.
In conclusion, becoming a pro PR is really quite simple if you ensure that you’re playing with all the right cards and know when to lay down each for success. With dedication, patience, and sticking by the above skills and attributes, you’ll be well on your way to a dream career in PR.
Ronn Torossian is a public relations professional and thought leader with over 20 years of experience