Qualities of a PR Pro

16 Mar


In the last couple of weeks, I have come across a few blogs where the authors are complaining about inappropriate public relations  overtures  or of getting mass and untargeted pitches.  I have come across a great deal of grammatically incorrect, spelling challenged and generally poorly written PR material.

I also have met several PR people who don’t really follow the news  or ever read a newspaper (including online). A few months ago I witnessed a gathering of PR professionals who expressed fear of social media, and resistance to change.

Today I came across this excellent and cautionary article, Almost Everyone Gets PR Wrong  by Nick Morgan in Forbes, about public relations and public perception, and how PR folk just don’t seem to know how to shape the narrative. Morgan writes the following:

Executives everywhere take note: Beware the power of the narrative. Stop keeping score, and instead look at your organization from the outside. What is your basic job, as far as the world is concerned? And what is the story that has developed over the years? That’s where your PR efforts should be focused. That narrative has to be simple, consistent and all about your functional role in the world. You’ve only got one story. Make it a good one.

All this made me think about what makes a good public relations person (no matter if he/she specializes in media relations, crisis communications or strategic communication).  Following a list of qualities a PR pro should have, in my opinion:

  • Ability to use the language correctly (grammar, spelling, word usage), both written and spoken
  • Common sense: being able to see what is important and what won’t make a difference
  • Interest in the news and the news business
  • People skills and emotional intelligence (e.g. being able to pick up cues)
  • Understanding what public relations attempts to accomplish (getting the big picture)
  • Ability to network (meeting people and being able to connect with them is a learned and important skill)
  • Eager to learn new skills and communication trends
  • Seeing the possibilities and being creative (“thinking outside the box”)

UPDATE: As per the two comments below:

  • Listening skills (not as easy as it sounds!)

In short, a PR pro should be a great communicator and should be able to understand how communications works to shape perception.

UPDATE: Just read this great post about the 14  attributes for new PR practitioners. Matches up quite nicely.

What makes a PR pro in your opinion?



4 Responses to “Qualities of a PR Pro”

  1. Veronica March 17, 2010 at 12:11 pm #

    Great post, Debbie! One thing I would add to your list is listening skills. They’re a vital part of several of the areas you mentioned, but I think they’re important enough to be singled out.

    Whether we’re talking about listening in its most basic form (i.e., hearing and truly understanding what’s said to you in a conversation) or listening in a broader sense (e.g., being tuned in to what’s happening in the news and in the social media realm), being an excellent listener is an essential part of being an effective communications professional.

    Unfortunately, it’s far too common to find “communications professionals” who are more focused on broadcasting their message than on listening to what’s going on around them. Being a great listener helps shape your strategies and contextualize your messages, making them significantly more interesting and effective.

  2. prgirlonamission March 25, 2010 at 10:51 am #

    I have to echo Veronica’s point on the importance of listening skills. Too often I see my colleagues putting out content that is not even remotely tailored to who is actually being spoken to by that content, and I think this is where the real failure occurs. A very wise professional once told me that you have to remember your audience, always. Where are they? What do they want to know? A skilled PR professional can take that central story and craft it so that it still retains that message but adapts to the different audiences you want to hear it.

  3. Deborah Brody March 25, 2010 at 2:01 pm #

    Agree completely with both Veronica and Pr Girl. No doubt, listening (and that means with understanding) is absolutely a must.


  1. 5 ways to get more readers to your blog by Deborah Brody | DWC - July 18, 2011

    […] 1. It goes almost without saying, but the first step is to provide consistent, interesting and/or useful content (and yes, you must be consistent…if you stop posting for more than a week or two, you will lose readers). My most popular blog posts are of the useful variety:  “How to: Develop a Tagline” and “Qualities of a PR Pro.” […]

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