Five traits of exceptional PR practitioners

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Access to top talent can be difficult in a fast-paced industry like PR, especially when hard work and unwavering commitment can’t be taught. People skills, creative ability, and an eye for detail are key characteristics of game-changing PR practitioners.

In what has been described as one of the world’s top 10 most stressful careers, Eclipse Communications Consumer Director Cara Diener explains what it takes to excel as a top-performing communications professional.

Specialist to generalist

PR professionals can no longer be merely PR professionals or specialists. Due to the constantly evolving environment they work in, they have to position themselves as communications professionals or generalists.

Today’s hybrid workplace requires employees to have a broader skill set to be able to work as strategists, problem solvers, innovators, and creators.

Similarly, communication professionals work in complex, ever-evolving, and highly demanding environments, where a linear approach can hinder success.

Communication practitioners continue to equip themselves with a wide range of skills to maximise value for clients – from strategic planning, media relations, and writing to gaining a deeper understanding of data analytics, social media content creation, and digital communication. Gone are the days where agencies walk into a room with a person for every discipline and layered cost models.

An inquisitive mind

When Alice falls down a rabbit hole and enters a strange fantasy world, she encounters increasingly odd creatures, events and people, which at one point leads her to exclaim; ‘Curiouser and curiouser!’

Unlike Alice’s fascinating adventure, communications professionals often have to unearth interesting nuggets from what – to the incurious eye – may seem rather mundane.

According to Diener, good communicators understand the importance of research and an in-depth knowledge of the world around them. “It is our job to stay on top of the news cycle and determine what is happening in the industries that our clients operate in. This is where we are able to get the most creative campaign ideas, angles for thought leadership content and be strategic consultants that our clients require us to be.”

A little black book

Furthermore, she says all PR professionals possess “little black books” of media contacts in their personal and professional arsenals. These books should, however, be classified as the “golden book” as it holds all the most valuable relationships, contacts, and the potential success of the next campaign.

“A communications professional with a focus on PR, cannot ignore cultivating media relations in the new media age while nurturing the existing relationships with traditional media. Influencers are now more important than ever before. Understanding how to leverage PR in the social sphere is imperative.”

An ability to pivot at speed

In the industry, agility is one of the most important watchwords. It’s no secret that communications has always been a fast-changing industry, but social media has accelerated this change with astonishing speed in recent years.

“In 2021 alone, more than 4.26 billion people were using social media worldwide, a figure that is expected to grow to about 6 billion by 2027. Any communications person who does not keep abreast of this significant trend will be left behind,” adds Diener.

A pandemic like Covid-19, for example, has compelled PR professionals to rethink campaigns and strategies at high speed. This is not expected to change as long as the world continues to experience environmental, social, and economic crises.

“Professionals who cannot think outside the box will have difficulty adapting to this rapidly changing environment. Businesses that thrive on change harness it for creative purposes rather than viewing it as an obstacle,” Diener says.

A keen grasp of words

Communicators should be masters at what they sell: communication. In the business, the best operators are excellent communicators, articulating well, expressing themselves clearly, listening for understanding, and translating what they hear accurately into action.

The ability to write well is one of the traits that distinguish exceptional communicators. This skill seems to be waning in the industry.  “When I first started out in the industry, everyone had to be able to write a press release or opinion piece. Today, the ability to write well seems to have become the preserve of a few, rather than the general requirement of many. Those who really want to excel in the industry will make sure they are competent writers, capable of writing not only email messages and press releases, but content for multiple social media platforms,” notes Diener.

Establishing oneself in the PR industry requires hard work, an eagerness to reach new heights, and the ability to adjust to industry trends and an ever-changing media landscape.