The public relations field doesn’t have a great track record. The general public thinks the industry is full of clever devils, with one motive–to coax, trick and deceive their audiences.
However strongly you feel this may be the case, it could not be further from the truth. This group of public relations practitioners is what we refer to as “unprofessional.”
There is much more to public relations than changing public perspectives and making things look good to the public eye. We are not “spin doctors.”
There are numerous traits that make up a solid PR practitioner. Of course, excellent writing abilities and strong communication skills are both key to a long-lasting PR career–as well as in most other careers–but there are three traits that seem to be paramount, more so than the others, which make up the core of all PR aficionados.
Go ahead and ask yourself if you have these traits, and what can be done to gain a better grasp on them.
Above all else, when I’m deciding if someone has what it takes to make it in public relations, I find out if he or she is capable of making strong relationships with other people. In other words, are you a “relationship builder?”
For example, do you find yourself adding friends to your list, or crossing them off? Do those you talk to leave the conversation feeling as though they can trust you? Do you feel that you can trust them?
The answers to these questions will give you an adequate picture of how you are doing with this one.
A common misconception among the PR crowd is that you must be an extrovert to be relevant. Although the door may be open wider for the more outgoing types, the public relations industry is massive, and all personalities have a place within it.
Introverts have strengths that extroverts don’t, and vice versa. Remember this when you are building relationships with other people.
Now, public relations is a field where networking–the process of making connections with people and creating pathways that can lead to future opportunities with them–is absolutely necessary.
Just about every person you talk to, no matter when or where you talk to them, has the potential of being a long-time connection and resource. It is crucial that your conversations with other people are positive, and are left open for future communication.
Who knows? The person you chitchatted with today on your routine commute could be a future business partner–or even your boss. Treat every conversation as if it matters.
It can be said that the wisest person in the room is the one that read the newspaper this morning and in public relations, that is the downright truth.
You have to stay informed as often as possible in regards to local, national, and world news, and how these affect current clients and the business.
Along with that, though, being well versed in a variety of topics (i.e. politics, economics, business, sports, entertainment, arts and culture, and etc.) will ensure that you are able to provide something valuable to your company and your client, and may even prevent serious mistakes from being made.
Being an information grabber does not mean you become caught up in rumors and gossip. These can be misleading and, sometimes, toxic.
Rather, having information-grabbing qualities means you enjoy learning, and reading the daily news-online and/or in print-is standard in your schedule every, single day.
The last practice is the bottom line. But, being honest and transparent, both seem like no-brainers. “Of course I am going to be honest,” you might be thinking or saying aloud. “I’d lose clients if I was dishonest,” or “I would go out of business,” could be some of the other thoughts entering your mind.
The problem is, this practice isn’t always clear-cut. Of course, being honest and trustworthy is simple, but sometimes knowing how–in certain situations–isn’t as easy.
Many decisions a PR person has to make involve two scenarios. The first scenario is one of monetary gain and, often, can bring immediate success, but may entail being somewhat unethical (i.e. publishing unauthorized information or pushing a product that isn’t safe).
Although the rewards may be great when choosing this route, the long-term effects can be devastating to a name or a company.
The second scenario, which isn’t always the prettiest or even the easiest to carry out, is choosing the higher road-and choosing to have integrity-even if it means skipping out on the larger reward.
You have to see the bigger picture when making big decisions. This can–and will be–tough, but it is extremely important to the future strength and credibility of your organization.
If needed, an elementary and simple way to check how honest a choice might be is to ask yourself if the action in question would be okay to carry out in front of your parents. If not, it probably isn’t right for your company or your clients.
Lay Your Foundation
The field of public relations needs more people who have chosen to adopt these three practices into their regimen. Organizational communications efforts would be better, and the industry might finally gain the respect and good reputation it so desperately deserves.
You as a public relations person within your organization play a massive role. Don’t take your work for granted. By laying your foundation with these three practices–and making it strong–you are already doing the world of PR, and the world in general, a huge favor.