What makes a PR pro exceed in agency life? Five qualities.
With a variety of client types, opportunities and experiences, PR firms are some of the most sought-after places of employment for both young and seasoned communications pros.
Naturally they are incredibly competitive environments filled with an abundance of candidates in the running for jobs and promotions.
So how does one excel? By demonstrating and developing the following five qualities:
PR firms deal with a high volume and variety of work on any given day. In order to succeed, you have to know how to hustle, hustle, hustle.
First of all, be the first one in the office and the last one out if you can. Fred Cook–CEO of Golin–describes in his book Improvise: Unconventional Career Advice from an Unlikely CEO that on his path of success he would often be the first one in and the last one out. Eventually, his bosses started noticing his dedication to his work. This observed behavior, coupled with his other unique qualities, propelled his career forward.
And when you’re in the office, make sure you’re keeping a consistent, intense work pace. There’s simply no time for sitting idle with the vast amount of client work and deadlines. If you finish your work early then ask for more or make it a point to help your coworkers and supervisors with their responsibilities to lessen their burden.
There a two things that will kill your hustle more than anything else–idle Facebooking and unrestrained browsing. Be cautious of these and be sure not to slip into them.
No matter your role in a PR firm, you’ll require foresight.
You actively contribute to a team that controls the public perception of your clients. One misstep could mean a crisis for the client, a fiery conflict for your coworkers and you ultimately being removed of your duties, so don’t take this quality lightly.
In order to succeed, you’ll need to be able to look ahead at the end result of your projects. Don’t take any detail or part of messaging for granted.
Your team may approve your actions, which may validate your decision, but too often items are approved that result in conflicts. It’s OK to get a second opinion from your coworkers, but charge yourself with the primary authority to look to the future and secondarily rely on them to validate or disagree with your decision.
Demonstrate foresight first and foremost by asking yourself the following questions:
- How will the client handle this idea or tactic?
- How will the audience react to this idea or tactic?
- What is the best and worst case scenario of this tactic?
I’ve learned that if you’re uncertain about the answers to the above-three questions, or feel uncomfortable, that you should take another look at your tactics.
Patience requires you to ignore your emotions and react in a calculated, well-thought-out way. Patience is a virtue, but it’s also an intentional discipline. This is how true professionals operate.
You’re going to have situations–with colleagues, clients and other third parties–that are going to frustrate, discourage and challenge you, but don’t skip into a quick reaction. Keep your calm, delay your emotions and think it through before you make your move.
There are going to be days when you don’t feel like being patient, but those are the days you have to be it the most.
Since you’ll most likely be dealing with a large variety of clients, you’re going to need to be curious.
Within the scope of your client responsibilities, be sure to keep up with the latest news and trends. Train yourself to be constantly learning about what makes people in that industry tick and utilize that to your client’s advantage.
Outside the scope of your client responsibilities, continue learning about everything you possibly can. Ask questions about your colleague’s clients and endeavors. Help them brainstorm solutions to their challenges.
You’ll never outgrow this particular quality. As we get older, our interests being to narrow and we start to become set in our ways. There is no place and no excuse for a constricted mind in the life of a PR firm, especially with all of the opportunities we have to continue being curious.
Rather than going to the same American restaurant every weekend, try a different culture. Try Thai, Vietnamese, Ethiopian or French cuisine. And instead of reading the same magazine every time you go on a trip, pick up a publication from the news rack completely different than your interest area. This is a way to get a peak into an entirely different culture.
This will help you to continue thinking of creative solutions for your client and will give you an advantage to developing your career.
Last, but most certainly not least, is toughness.
As I mentioned earlier, you’re going to have to be patient with colleagues, client and other third parties. There are going to be times when your peers tear apart your work piece by piece with critical acclaim. There will be days when clients question you on your every move. There will be moments of crisis that you’ll have to take leadership of. You have to stand strong and keep everything in perspective through these moments.
The difference between a rockstar PR person and an average is mental toughness–or as I like to say, how much they can handle while still being able to crack a smile.
I’ll never forget when a mentor of mine and I were sitting in his office eating lunch. An employee ran up to his office door with flushed face glistening with sweat telling him that a client was on the phone and there was a serious PR crisis at hand.
I immediately looked to the reaction of my mentor–there wasn’t any flicker of panic in his eyes. He told the employee he would handle it with a reassuring nod. I asked, “How are you going to handle this?” His answer is timeless.
He said with a smile, “I’m going to finish my cookie first.” He finished his last bite, picked up the phone and handled the crisis.
What qualities do you think are necessary to exceed in a PR firm?