I can’t even begin to guess how many resumes we receive each week. And, everyone I know has a friend or a friend-of-a-friend that wants to work in Public Relations. I’m constantly asked to meet with people and give them advice about the best way to break into the world of PR. Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy to do it and usually do, but lately I just haven’t had the time.
PR is an alluring career for many reasons. It has a glamorous side for sure, but what you don’t see are the grueling hours of hard work and dedication that takes place behind the scenes.
And, it’s extremely competitive. However, unlike many professions, PR doesn’t require a Harvard education or years of scoring A’s in PR courses throughout college. Don’t get me wrong it’s great if you bring these elements to the table but they’re not what make a strong PR person. In fact, I’ve never taken a PR “class” in my life.
So, what is it that you need to truly succeed in the business? In my opinion, it’s a recipe of four innate traits, coupled with crazy hard work:
- Enthusiasm: I imagine enthusiasm is an ingredient for success in any field, but with PR it’s a main ingredient. Be enthusiastic or go home. If you’re not able to be excited about what you’re talking about how are you supposed to get the media excited? They receive hundreds of pitches a day so you better be able to capture their attention – so, do your homework, be knowledgeable about what you’re talking about, and get ready to convey it in an interesting and genuinely enthusiastic way. And mean it.
- Intuition: Solid relationships are an integral part of this business – we connect people and are the middleman between our clients, the media and ultimately, the public. It’s a constant juggling act and you better be able to read people and gauge their interest level. Many journalists will tell you, there’s nothing worse than an over-zealous PR person who continues to follow-up, even when they’re clearly not interested. There’s a way to be persistent but you have to do it with tact. This is one of the many cases in this business where your intuition needs to guide you. So listen up.
- Confidence: Stellar phone and killer in-person people skills are integral. Yes, even in today’s technology-obsessed society. You have to be able to make people want to listen to you over the many other talented publicists out there. Hold your head up high, pick up the phone and make it happen. No one is ever going to know everything from day one — or ever – but confidence and a go-getter attitude can overcome a lot.
- Work Ethic: As my husband always says, “The harder you work, the luckier you get.” And, he’s right. I’ve spent nearly 10 years building long lasting media and client relationships and working like crazy to get my clients noticed, ultimately securing the media coverage they deserve. This didn’t (and doesn’t) happen overnight or by working 9 to 5 and doing only what is expected. You succeed by going above and beyond. You should always be one step ahead of your boss and your clients. Hard work is respected and recognized. And in PR, it’s mandatory.
To all of the future PR stars out there, know what you’re signing up for and assess whether your personality and skill set are a match for the sometimes turbulent life of a PR pro. Do your research and invest as much time as you can working as an intern. These opportunities will help you gain valuable on-the-job experience and perspective on the industry before you take the leap into a career as a PR Rockstar-in-training.