A colleague new to my agency once regaled us with a conversation he had with an older cousin of his at a family wedding. My colleague, then new at the job, excitedly told his cousin about his new job as a public relations (PR) executive in a boutique PR agency. Unexpectedly, instead of complimenting him on his new career path, the cousin smiled sadly and clapped him on the back.
“I used to do public relations at my old company,” she said. “Good luck. You’re going to need all of it.”
If you think the life of a PR officer is a glitzy, glamorous one of wining, dining, and ‘networking’ with clients, you have another think coming. Ranked by Forbes as one of the 10 most stressful jobs in the world, it is no secret to anyone in the industry that public relations is a highly challenging career path for anyone to take up.
On the flipside, this challenge is what also makes public relations one of the most satisfying careers in the world. There is almost nothing more satisfying than having the press release you have painstakingly amended time and time again getting snapped up for coverage by the media, or having your client congratulate you for overwhelmingly successful results of the PR campaign you and your team had spent hours brainstorming months before.
It is tiring work, but when it pays off, the satisfaction is sublime – mostly because good PR ideas, like all creative outputs, are very personal, and also because of how increasingly necessary it is for a company to practice good public relations.
In an era where instant communication is readily available to the masses, public relations has become vastly more relevant than ever before. The industry has also transformed with the growing need for Online PR, Blogger PR and Social Media Marketing, especially in such a time where communications technology is so widely available and seamless. With the relentless spread of information about everyone and everything, at anytime, it has become more important than ever for businesses to 1) focus on managing the perceptions of their consumers, and 2) gain their attention in a world where attention is becoming an increasingly scarce resource – exactly the roles PR practitioners were made to play.
Do you have what it takes to excel in public relations? Here are 5 personality traits that you will need.
Having excellent time-management skills will always be a significant aid to you in any career. However, time-management is especially important in PR, especially in an agency environment where one has to juggle multiple accounts at once. Your email inbox will never stop buzzing, your office phone will never stop ringing, and the ‘URGENT’, ‘IMPORTANT’ tasks on your to-do-list will never stop coming. It is important to be able to prioritise all of these tasks, and to manage your time effectively enough to respond swiftly and efficiently to every one of your client’s enquiries.
In short, if you want to succeed in this industry, dust off that planner you got for Christmas – it will quickly become full in no time at all.
This may seem like a no-brainer, seeing as public relations is, first and foremost, a communications industry. But it is impossible to overstate the importance of being able to communicate clearly and concisely in public relations. It is not just about being able to charm your clients and sweet-talk to the media – we live in a world where the attention span of the average consumer is becoming shorter and shorter, and subsequently, the word-limits for communication too.
Having good communication skills is not all about having an extensive vocabulary, impeccable grammar, and speaking with confidence any longer. You need to be able to grab your audience’s attention by its shirt lapels and keep it there in the simplest way possible.
3) Familiarity with Technology
Technophobia is simply not an option if you want to enter the communications industry. While traditional media and press releases are still the bread and butter of public relations, consumer attention is becoming increasingly focused on the web these days. Take a good look at any recent publicity campaign. More often than not they are centered on smartphone apps, social media movements, or viral videos. To produce these things, a good public relations officer will need to comfortably wield an arsenal of social media, software, and hardware.
A memorable quote from Thank You For Smoking, a film about a smooth-talking tobacco lobbyist: “That’s the beauty of argument. If you argue correctly, you’re never wrong.”
While the film is not specifically about the public relations industry, this line is extremely applicable. Clients are not always going to provide things that are immediately appealing to the public. If they did, they would not require public relations at all. However, every account you are assigned to will have something interesting to publicize – it is only a question of angling it in the right way, which is the job of everyone in public relations.
Be creative. Find the appealing angle.
This is the last item on our list, but it certainly isn’t the least. From having an astute eye for small details in the content your produce for clients, being quick to respond to client and media inquiries, having a fervor to learn new things to better serve your clients, to being able to promise clients results and actually deliver them, having a strong sense of responsibility is intrinsic in all aspects of public relations.