By Sian Disson, Account Director, Red Setter
We’re many things. Strategists, writers, agony aunts, firefighters, jugglers, educators… the list goes on. Most of these are skills you can learn as you go. Our team comes from a hugely diverse set of backgrounds – corporate communications, consumer PR, journalism, business development – and we’re all the stronger for it.
And whilst you can take Public Relations degree courses, many great PRs have sidestepped from humanities, sciences or even further afield. They are, however, united by a wider set of skills. Arguably more important than those picked up in a classroom.
So, if you’re considering a new role in PR, here are six questions you may want to ask yourself.
First and foremost, we’re a team. It will always be ‘we’, not ‘I’, and successes and learnings are all shared together. If you’re used to working solo it may take some getting used to, but all great PRs understand that collaboration improves their work – it means more ideas, more hands to action, more creativity to evolve and face challenges, and more areas of expertise to learn from. Be generous with your time and ideas. It can only benefit you and your clients.
Most PRs have multiple clients and campaigns running in parallel, and it can be a challenge to juggle so many priorities without dropping any balls. Organisation and an eye for detail are paramount. Everyone has their preferred way of working – shared Google docs, creative scheduling or the uninspiring but ever-useful Excel sheets. The key is to find yours and use it rigorously.
As with any people-based job, so much of a PR’s daily decisions will require common sense. Yes, there are complex challenges to face, but they don’t always need complicated solutions. A knack for looking at things from a new angle goes a long way. If something isn’t working – whether that’s a creative idea that hasn’t landed with the media or a troublesome client – you need to step back, discuss it, and take another route. Then have the confidence to see it through.
It goes without saying that you need a thick skin for PR. You need to be okay with being ignored or turned down. No matter how good your idea may be, not everyone is going to agree with you all the time, and that’s fine. If this isn’t something that comes naturally to you, it can be a hard skill to develop, but once mastered will serve you well. As will the support of your team when you come off the phone to a particularly sharp-tongued journalist!
There’s a preconceived idea that all PRs are extroverted chatterboxes. Not the case. Active listening is key to building a strong relationship with your clients. You need to understand what they are trying to achieve as a business, what makes them different, why we’re doing what we’re doing. Only then can you put yourself in their shoes and deliver what’s needed. This is also a key skill in building your journalist relationships – you’re not a salesperson. Stop talking, sit back and listen to what they’re asking you for before reeling off a pitch.
Some campaigns are straightforward. Others take more persistence, and you’ll need to be tenacious to gain the impact your client deserves. Whether that’s tracking down the right contacts and building those all-important relationships with them to land a story or finding inventive ways to gently nudge busy clients into giving you the expert knowledge you need to turn an idea into a top tier placement, it’s often a blend of saintly patience, expert wordsmithery and sheer determination.
Before writing this, I spoke to our team to get their feel on what makes a good PR, and the influx of thoughts could easily have filled an article three times as long – see, teamwork in action! – but the line that stood out most was from one of our brilliant Account Managers.
She shared that her fiancé is forever telling her ‘You’re such a PR!’ whenever she chats to a stranger or someone in a café and asks them questions. And perhaps that’s it. This job isn’t as much about formal training as it is about a mindset. A curiosity about the world and the people in it; a need to ask questions; a desire to learn new things. Then the tenacity and creativity to turn that knowledge into something bigger. If that sounds like you, perhaps PR is the career you’re looking for.