5 Quintessential skills for a PR Professional to embrace this Profession
8 Mar 2017
These are fundamental questions that I have often come across in my interactions with students over the years. Even though the Communications and PR sector has rapidly evolved and is today recognized as a distinctive industry sector, there are still many unanswered questions among the student community. There are many reasons for this and one of the primary suspects being the fact that PR is a fairly late entrant in the entire communication mix. This means that PR is evolving along with other forms of communication.
I was previously a part of one of the world’s largest communications companies, Ogilvy for close to 14 years in India. During this period I have been witness to various evolutionary phenomena including the rise of social media and online media in the past decade or so. Evidence of the transition can be studied by the many communication verticals that the company operates today and some of which were nonexistent a decade ago. Mainstream advertising which is still considered the mainstay of communication campaigns and is still relevant also includes the subdivisions of Planning, Creative, Studio, Films and Servicing. Independent disciplines in Communication which are a part of Ogilvy today include Public Relations, Digital Marketing, Rural marketing, Events, Outdoor, Direct Marketing, Media Planning, etc.
Having established the diversity of the communication profession in general, let me enumerate the requisite qualities or skills needed for a PR professional. I believe that any individual aspiring to get into Public Relations can evaluate oneself on these basic skills to understand their suitability.
Any candidate in PR must be proficient in all forms of communication. While oral skills are crucial it is equally important for a PR professional to be adept in writing. Your oral communication plays a crucial role in interacting with the client, pitching story ideas and communicating with the media among others.
Writing is another important function as a good professional should be able to adapt to a variety of writing styles to suit their client’s needs. You may need to write a pitch note for a journalist or a press release or an article. Even the type of writing varies depending on the category such as IT or lifestyle or healthcare, etc. Hence communication is of overarching importance when it comes to PR.
Public Relations as the name suggests also includes networking. While the definition of networking is diverse, in the context of modern day PR as a consulting profession it refers to connecting with journalists and other influencers. It entails building a professional rapport with them and trying to establish a sustained working relationship with them, one that also suits their professional needs. It helps if one can effortlessly make friends but the trick lies in being able to successfully draw the line between professional life and social life as the situation demands.
Media is the primary target audience for PR campaigns since they are the largest and most defined influencer group across categories. Hence it is crucial to understand this animal called Media in all its avatars. Let’s reflect on the types of media that are in vogue today – Newspapers, Magazines, English Media, Regional Media, Television, Radio, Online, Wire Services, etc are just some of the popular outlets available. Each of the media formats cater to different sets of audiences with different content consumption patterns. And within each of these media vehicles are sections catering to different types of news and content. It is crucial for a PR professional to hence be on top the media domain and to understand its dynamics in such a way so as to collaborate with them effectively.
The fundamentals of PR rests in marketing and brands. Hence it is important to understand the dynamics of marketing and how it works for companies and brands. One must understand that PR is but one tile in the rubiks cube called marketing. The broad approach of creating brands, what’s the importance of brand building, how do they compete with similar brands, how do you build emotional quotient with brands, etc are some of the elements that one must aspire to get an understanding off. As an example one can study what had contributed to the success of age old brands like Unilever and P&G but in contrast you can look at Pattanjali and its overnight success. It is also widely acknowledged that Pattanjali and its founder rode heavily on PR to contribute to his image and his success as a result.
PR is also loosely considered Influencer marketing. One of my personal favourites to describe PR being ‘Influencing the Influencer’. Hence this craft also entails identifying influencers for a particular category and then successfully engaging with them to help build word of mouth. Understanding the dynamics of such Influencers and finding meaningful ways to collaborate with them is another essential tenet for PR.
In summary, your market preparedness for PR can be measured by these 5 skills and can help you decide whether take the plunge into an exciting career in PR. This profession is widely considered to be one of the most satisfying and exhilarating careers, simple because of the energy and the dynamism that it demands. My advice to fresher’s and first timers is to introspect and evaluate oneself on each of the above 5 qualities on a scale of 1 to 10, and to then decide if this profession is really something that excites you basis your strengths.