By: Julie Wright
If you’ve been in the field of public relations for a while, you’ll recognize some of these head-scratching contradictions. What other profession asks people to combine such opposing character traits and skillsets? PR pros are a weird and wonderful mash-up of qualities, and I, for one, wouldn’t have it any other way. I’d love to know – what would you add to this list?
- Be a good storyteller and an even better listener
Do you spin a good yarn? Enthrall your audience? Perfect! But no one ever learned anything by talking (Donald Trump). So to really be a good PR practitioner, you need exceptional listening skills. That can mean listening to stakeholders so that you know what really interests them, or it can mean listening for what is not being said. Since the stories we tell are not fictional, being a good listener means being as focused on the facts and as accurate as the journalist you will pitch. Truly, you can’t be a great storyteller until you’ve become a great listener.
- Bring a contagious enthusiasm to your subject and a perfect poker face
We can’t bore our audiences into caring about our clients’ stories, so infecting them with our own excitement and interest is key. But there are times when it’s not possible to tell the whole story. Exciting but confidential news could be a pending acquisition, a killer new product feature about to launch, a new hire—but if the information is not ripe for publication, the perfect spokesperson also has to do the job of a police officer doing crowd control: “Nothing to look at, folks. Move on.” Otherwise, they could spark speculation, unproductive rumor mongering and a media frenzy.
- You’ve got to see the big picture while also getting the details right
Strategy has to be your North Star. Why are we doing this? What are we aiming to achieve? Great. Now execute that plan to perfection—juggling approvals from AWOL client decision makers, managing a timeline and budget, keeping the spokespeople on message and ensuring the right stakeholders are reached via the right platforms at the right time. Yes, we can also pat our heads and rub our bellies simultaneously.
- Can I trust you to be discreet? Oh, and can you be shamelessly promotional, too?
Sign the NDA. Respect client confidentiality. Protect their brand and image as if they were your own. And then, on a dime, turn on the loudspeaker, load up the emails and start working the phones and working the room. It’s an unsettling juxtaposition. When you’re more often measured by how successfully you spread a message, it can feel very uncomfortable to be sidelined or silenced. However, it all comes down to trust. Can your client count on you to protect their image as diligently as you promote it?
- Right brain business smarts! And left brain creative genius!
You need to be as comfortable in the boardroom or corner office as you are in a beanbag chair brainstorming campaign ideas. Can you take that business speak and make it as interesting and engaging as possible? It’s the creative thinking that brings it to life – a campaign with a fun hook or a visual that helps tell the story. Call it “creative license.”
If you’ve got both business savvy and creative chops, you’ve got what it takes to crush it in the rewarding, fast-paced world of public relations today.