A message to an aspiring PR pro: 4 things you need to succeed in PR

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When it comes to public relations, it takes a multitude of skills to craft client narratives, engage the media, discern the best medium for storytelling and meet clients’ needs. While you need expertise in so many different aspects of the job – one-trick ponies fade away quickly in this business – there are four core characteristics every PR pro shares.

  1. Be knowledgeable: Understand the subject matter and how to create the right storylines

    First and foremost, you must understand each client’s business, industry and story. When it comes to the media, you are the gatekeeper. The manner in which you tell a client’s message gives the press their first impression. It will be glaringly evident to the media if you do not understand the issues you are writing about, or how each relates to the reporters working on the story. This is not a great way to start a relationship with the press.

    Next comes knowing what will stick and what won’t. Understanding how the media operates and which issues are timely and newsworthy is at the cornerstone of PR success. Your job is to anticipate what reporters and producers are looking for. Being honest about what you believe the media will run with (and not run with) is typically well-received by clients. More often than not, they will appreciate your expertise and guidance.

  2. Be nimble: Find a balance between stated objectives and needed course corrections

    Objectives are crucial in laying the groundwork of a PR campaign. A central part of the job is to first make sure you are following through on these goals, but you also must always be prepared to change direction. Throughout the life of a campaign, the client will likely want to tell a new story and reach a different audience to meet new business objectives.

    When a client asks to change their PR positioning, it can both spur progress and challenge your workflow. Updated messaging points, ideas and directives can breathe life into a campaign and show the growth of your client’s company. On the other hand, when you have spent so much time supporting a certain brand, leveraging specific content and making relationships with key media points, the idea of mixing that up can seem daunting.

    If changing course comes into play, make sure to get your ducks in a row immediately. What’s driving this change in direction and who are the people behind it? How does this impact the audiences you are trying to reach and the messages that need to be delivered? All the work you put into building a brand matters little if the client is no longer seeking to grow in that direction.

  3. Be realistic: Manage clients’ expectations (you will over-deliver in the end)

    Yes, your job is to serve clients, but to do your job effectively you must set guidelines.

    All clients have different expectations and ideas of what PR is and can do for them. You have to make sure expectations are as realistic as possible. Set the pace at the very start of a campaign. Keep in mind that most PR pros go above and beyond to meet clients’ need, but you must draw a line in the sand in terms of expectations and results, so the value associated with your efforts is maintained.

    Here is one client expectation example to consider: “I expect to be on TV every week.” Agreeing to such a standard sets you and the client up for mutual frustration. Keep your response positive, but reinforce your expertise. Even in the 24/7 news environment of financial media, only a select few sources can expect a recurring opportunity to appear weekly on live television. Some of your clients may indeed possess the knowledge, delivery style and relevance to command a steady stream of broadcast opportunities, but promising to meet a lofty standard that you don’t control can spell disaster.

  4. Be flexible with communication: Tailored correspondence is key to a healthy relationship

    Each client is unique and comes with their own distinct ways of communicating. At the core, you need to treat every client with the same level of professionalism, regardless of their personality or needs. But addressing everyone in the same style will never work. Modify how you correspond with each client based on their specific preferences. This goes a long way when it comes to the strength of your working relationship.

Educate yourself. Stay on your toes. Set parameters. Mold your communication. These principles will always remain at the center of PR success, and an integral part of a professional’s career.