Of course there are the obvious skills – good PR professionals are trained to write well, and they should think strategically, yet be able to manage tactical execution of campaigns. But spend a day with a top PR person and you will see some underlying talents and character traits that every good practitioner needs in order to offer meaningful counsel to clients, company execs and associates.
Calculated brevity! On any given day we’re presenting to a potential client, contacting journalists about a story or perfecting an email subject line. All require economy of language to grab attention and make an impact.
Own the expertise. Sure, you’ve got clients and members of your exec team who can wax brilliantly on several topics, but that is a PR function as well. In creating relationships with journalists, conference directors, potential promotional partners and others, PR pros who stand out are the owners of the good information, the latest data, or the deepest intel that can reinforce our status as a go-to source for decision-makers.
Listen and learn and listen some more. The art of being a good listener is an unsung skill in our business. Patiently letting a CEO or other leader talk about business goals or even relate anecdotes about the company is a good way to establish rapport, build a relationship and even see story opportunities emerge from unexpected places. All of this helps elevate the PR partner beyond “PR order-taker” and offers insights that we can take back to our work.
Divine the unspoken. Conversely, there are the cagey clients and company execs. With this type, we have to work extra hard to get to what the company goals are; or read between the lines to separate out what may be “political” or self-serving vs. newsworthy. A cache of probing questions helps here, along with some well-worded honesty.
Talk to strangers. Great PR is rarely created in a vacuum. Breakthrough ideas can come from anyone. We recently met a freelance graphic designer at an event who proactively came to us just days later with some fresh thinking that may work well for a client. Potential collaborations are everywhere, you just have to look for them.