There’s never been a more interesting time to be in public relations (PR). If we look back on its early days in the 1900s, we’ll see just how far it’s come from the old-school basics to the collaborative function that it is today.
PR is no longer limited to its traditional roots of press releases and mass media institutions. Though these fundamentals still remain, the landscape is shifting and so is the profession, with companies having to continually evolve to account for the emergence of alternative media outlets, growing power of consumers and digital trends.
But with all the innovation, comes challenges…one of the greatest ones being talent.
Getting ahead of the curve
It’s an information-rich world and while the proliferation of online channels has made interaction a cinch, staying relevant in today’s competitive market takes a lot more than a set of outreach strategies.
I mean we have this fascinating and well-stocked PR toolbox, all these cool digital assets (SEO, social listening, analytics, etc.) that are pertinent in today's data-driven ecosystem. The opportunities are there – it’s finding the right people to optimise them that’s the tough part, which brings me to the purpose of this article. What does the ‘right person’ in PR look like?
Separating the best from the rest
We’re seeing some amazing talent in the market; incoming bright sparks, emerging professionals, mavens and influencers...all with impressive credentials, but what is it that allows some of them to rise above the others?
Considering the direction of the industry, you'd think that a lot of it would have to do with new hard skills and being tech-savvy. But what I'm referring to here goes beyond skillset. It's the inherent qualities that make solid PR professionals as I've recognised from speaking with peeps in the market.
Here, I've shortlisted the three that inspire me most:
1) Creativity and strategic thinking - Eagerness to break out of the metaphorical box
PR professionals are purveyors of meaningful and truthful storytelling. There’s no surviving in the industry otherwise, especially if your success is based on relationships and earned coverage. Now with online media and fake news a concern, people aren’t as credulous. They’ve become selective with their consumption. And they can afford to be with everyone and everything vying for their attention.
True professionals take an honest look at how a project or piece of work can add value to others. Their creative muscles are exercised in every way possible as they explore engaging ways to relate to the people who matter. They think strategically around opportunities and are not afraid to take risks; to question the status quo and go beyond tired approaches.
This kind of thinking involves being prudent and proactive (crisis management for example). Hovering within the ‘comfort zone’ of conventional ways or simply waiting for partnership opportunities to turn up won’t take you very far.
2) Intellectual curiosity - Always a sponge for knowledge and on the pulse of the news
Curiosity may have killed the cat but it’s what drives PR professionals in this rollercoaster ride of a field! It’s that voracious appetite to keep learning. They live and breathe the news and are up to speed on trends and global affairs – a great habit to get into if you’re a newcomer.
There’s so much to get excited about in this industry. Thought leadership opportunities, new avenues for content, influencer marketing, machine learning, IoT…these are all intriguing to the intellectually curious. It’s a new, forward-thinking mentality. If you’re having to distill intricate tactics into pitch-perfect proposals, and complicated brand stories into relatable narratives, how can you do them better than it’s been done before?
Let your mind wander into the unfamiliar and absorb all kinds of knowledge. Going above and beyond is what makes these guys standout, reliable consultants. Think about having to counsel people of various levels, high-profile stakeholders and business leaders. The exceptional ones will furnish themselves to gain that confidence and be more effective.
3) Tenacity - A strong determination to see things through come what may
This would have to be the most admirable attribute I've seen in PR professionals. These guys embrace challenges and push themselves to keep up with the fluid nature of the job. They may get knocked down one day but then they'll wake up and hit the ground running the next.
They get that relationships are everything in PR but building them won't happen overnight. There will be rejections and moments of disappointment, and as anyone in a ‘people industry’ will say, you have to be thick-skinned; to be able to find that inner strength, keep calm, and move forward.
And I would pair this with nerves. Be it to pitch to a room full of people, stand your ground on the feasibility of an idea or cold call a journalist on a deadline, it takes a lot to fly in this industry. Remember why you're in it in the first place and never doubt your prowess.
These to me distinguish the exceptional from the good. Now I'm not saying we can forget about the core proficiencies. Writing’s a prerequisite as it has always been, and you still need to be a killer communicator with a love (or at the very least tolerance) for people. Passion goes without saying, along with versatility, a sense of urgency and attention to detail…
But you PR folks already know all that. Dynamic, intelligent, articulate and well-read…are the market terms. And I believe they all stem from the qualities outlined above.
What qualities inspire you? I’m always keen to hear from people in the industry – new, seasoned or simply interested. Hit me up if you’d like to discuss trends, share insights or explore opportunities!