If you’re serious about the public relations business, you can never settle for being
just an average professional. Here are 25 ways to shine – waaaayyy beyond the solid list of tactical skills and basic attributes you may have acquired already. There are probably 2,500 qualities of a great public relations practitioner, but I’ll only tick off the top one percent. Are these in any particular order? Nope. They’re just as random and chaotic as the average PR pro’s typical workday.
So, what do you have to do – or be – in order to walk on water?
1. Ethical. ‘Nuff said. If you’re not a fundamentally ethical person, public relations is not the career path for you. In order to act ethically, you need to be a good judge of character – and then associate exclusively with quality people. Also, you must be incredibly discreet, plus possess a finely tuned BS detector. As that C&W tune sums up so nicely: “If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.”
2. Enthusiastic and energetic, but not foolishly so. You must be able to point out the best- and worst-case scenarios in any situation, but always stay focused on the positive side of the ledger. There’s no room in PR for pure Pollyannas, of course, but people always want to associate with problem-solvers.
3. Voraciously curious and able to be passionate about the most mundane product, service, concept, organization, company, or cause. Public relations is an exquisite field because they pay us to learn stuff. Never suppress the desire to know more, but clearly understand when you’ve learned enough to act effectively.
4. Analytical and decisive. Top PR people are able to summarize complex information quickly and simply – pulling out key ideas and not getting swamped by minutia. And they never “let perfect be the enemy of the very good.” Fortune favors the bold. It’s not how many projects you start but how many you finish successfully that ultimately determines your value as a professional. Remind yourself on occasion: “Process is not our only product.”
5. Having the guts to disagree agreeably. In his famous maxim “Criticize by creating,” Michelangelo nailed it 500 hundreds years ago. If someone has a weak idea or is headed down a wrong path, don’t just point out the obvious. Give ‘em a better option—or three maybe. You must have strong, well-reasoned points of view and be able to articulate them with gusto. Too often at the first sign of discord, the fight or flight response kicks in and all dialogue ceases.
6. Attentive and able to make anyone feel like she or he is the only person who matters to you right then. And when your bosses or clients want to talk, you want to listen. No matter how late you are to the next meeting…or how desirous of a bathroom break.
7. Persuasive, through every form of written and oral discourse. Anyone can order or re-order a set of facts. Only a great communicator can put them forth in a way that moves people to action. That requires the skills, confidence and timing….of a good storyteller.
8. Competitive enough to regularly celebrate the wins – and never want to repeat the losses. PR is not a game by any means, but it has undeniable elements of competition – and it really helps to enjoy that.
9. Graciously accepting of praise. You shouldn’t be falsely modest about your achievements – or painfully self-aggrandizing. Take credit when it’s due you…and never fail to share it with deserving teammates.
10. Flexible, but not Gumby-ish. Nothing in a PR person’s world is ever static. So, you need to be loyal to the best ideas and best people, but never blindly so. You must always question intelligently and quickly make required mid-course corrections. I love the Native American saying: “If the horse you’re riding dies, get off…”
Stay tuned! More tips to come!
Marilyn Hawkins is a corporate communications consultant based in Ashland, Ore. You can reach her at email@example.com.