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What it takes to be a PR professional

This was originally published in Influencing.

Working in PR requires a clear and creative head, the ability to juggle many balls at once, a willingness to jump into new challenges and to quickly learn and understand new subject matter.

If you’re thinking about getting qualified in PR, here are some insights into what it really means to have a PR career:

Know your client and the media landscape

Knowing your clients, the industry and their competition like the back of your hand is vital to supporting campaigns, identifying issues and providing strategic advice. If your client sells tyres, get familiar with who else is in the tyre space and what they might be doing or saying differently, as well as outside factors that might create issues or opportunities for your client.

You will also need a good understanding of the media landscape. Become an avid consumer of all things print, radio and online so you’re across the latest issues and current affairs, as well as the variety of media outlets that exist. This will help you build story angles for your clients, seize opportunities as they present themselves and allow you to know the right target for stories that you’re pitching.

Build strong relationships

A big part of working in PR is about building strong relationships – this means internally and externally. The old saying “two heads are better than one” is particularly true in PR and your colleagues are a valuable source of new ideas and approaches to solutions.  

It goes without saying that when you’re working with a client or journalist you want to build positive and productive relationships. A good way to approach this is to always have front of mind what their objectives are so you can support them in reaching this. This doesn’t mean you should become a “Yes” man, only delivering what they want, but it will provide a lens through which you can make decisions and put forward advice.  

Patience is a virtue

One of the most important parts about working in PR is patience. Internal and external pressures can sometimes mean that results are expected instantly.  But, PR is about approaching your work strategically and making calculated moves to guarantee you get your message across and ultimately achieve the goals that have been set out. Often a quick result is not the best result.

Whether you are waiting to hear back from a journalist or working on positioning your client as an industry thought leader, remember these things can take time.

Hone those writing skills

Despite the power of social media in modern PR, old-fashioned writing skills are valuable. Media releases, speeches, feature articles, opinion pieces, website content and brochures still need to be written, and written well. The demand for different styles of writing has never been greater either – a good PR person has to know how to write formal parts of an annual report and a fun post on Facebook without batting an eyelid. By having a flair for words and a good knowledge how to word pieces for different purposes, you will become a highly sought-after PR pro.

Stay cool in a crisis

Crisis communications has never been more important than it has today. With the 24 hour news cycle and the immediacy of social media your client or organisation can suddenly find themselves in the middle of a reputation-destroying meltdown.

A level-headed PR professional can help manage the fall-out with good media management, preparation of spokespeople and consistent management. You could actually help turn a crisis into an opportunity!

Think you’ve got what it takes?

If you’re up for a challenge and consider yourself a versatile, media savvy and charismatic sort of person, then PR should be right up your alley. One way to get you there is by completing Swinburne Online’s Bachelor of Communications (Public Relations)

Megan Gidley is a Unit Coordinator and eLearning Advisor at Swinburne Online. She has over 10 years’ experience in the PR industry and has held roles at Coles and Monash University.