Through the years, I’ve had my fair share of talking with students and others looking to break into the industry about why they want to go into public relations. It always amazes me the variety of reasons that they express. PR is one of those industries that you hear great and glamorous things about, and the not-so-glamorous is often unknown until you are in the thick of it.
I will never stop believing that it takes a special type of person to work in PR, so I put together some of the lesser-known attributes of what I feel it takes to make it in the industry.
Passion for PR: I have this weird sixth sense for being able to tell if someone has a passion for PR. If someone can list off industry leaders, blogs they follow, what’s going on in the news and where they think the future of PR is going, then I know the passion is there. In a career full of crisis and the 24/7 news cycle, we are always on call. You better have passion for the work you do.
Being able to multitask: I know, technically, there really is no such thing as doing two things at the same time. Our brains just don’t work that way. I guess what I really mean is being able to switch tasks quickly and be able to be pulled in many directions. In PR (and especially agency life) you switch from client to client or task to task in the nick of time. You must have the ability to complete tasks quickly while still being able to pay attention to detail.
Thinking on your feet: In the time of crisis, a new business presentation or in client meetings, we are often asked questions out of the blue or need to prepare plans in a moment’s notice. As PR people, we must know the industry inside and out and be confident in ourselves and our decisions.
Love for learning: In an ever-changing industry, you must have a desire and love to learn. There is a constant need to learn about what the media and other target audiences want, and how our clients’ industries work and change. As PR pros, we not only need to be an expert in PR, but also in the industry that your company or client is in to stay on top of trends.
Cope well under pressure: I sometimes refer to this as having emotional intelligence. Being thrown in crisis situations, having to meet multiple deadlines and the pressure to show results can make this a stressful career. We need to be able to read a situation at a moment’s notice and not physically show the stress you can be under. Facial expressions, your attitude and the quality of your work need to stay intact.
Communication, communication and more communication: PR is much more than planning events and networking. We are in constant communication with many audiences including client contacts, the media, vendors, colleagues and so on. We also write a great deal more than people think including news releases, pitches, blog entries, memos, tweets, columns and you guessed it: the list goes on and on. You must be an excellent communicator, whether it is verbal or written.
These are just a few of my must-haves that I always share with people looking to break in to the business. What are some attributes that you feel are necessary to work in the industry?
-Karen Buckoski is a senior account executive at Red Shoes PR