PR, more often than not, is misunderstood by people outside of the industry as purely fun and glamourous. However, the fact is to be successful in PR requires lots of self-discipline and hard work. Quite often, frustrations and tedious work come before the excitement and great sense of accomplishment.
Public relations is about managing public perception of a product, a person or a company. Since perception can be affected by the constantly-changing environment, working in the PR field usually means dealing with surprises and unknown challenges. To be a professional PR practitioner, you need to possess a certain skill set with certain personality traits. Below will give you some ideas about the prerequisites and you can judge for yourself whether you are the kind of person which can fit well to this career.
PR practitioners need to be able to express their thoughts and messsages in front of the target audience, be it the media, the stakeholders or the general public. Not only that you must love to write and talk, you have to write well and speak well, to be able to express clearly and accurately. When you are applying for a PR job, you will be expected to take a written test to demonstrate your good language skills.
And because of this reason, for entry levels in the PR industry, employers prefer graduates from communication, journalism, translation or those majoring in languages because they believe the school training can equip these students with good language skills. However, this is not a must. As long as you can demonstrate that you are a good communicator like having a very good academic record for your language courses, employer will also be willing to grant you an interview.
PR practitioners need to take an immense amount of research to monitor issues and anticipate trends that will impact their organizations and the industries in which they operate. It is important to consume news from newspapers, trade publications and be able to dig out useful information from the Internet such as from blogs and the social media. Knowing how to find information from Google is not enough – you need to understand how to analyse these information as well.
Openness to the PR world means thirst for knowledge and great sensitivity to the surroundings and the people. The best PR people are people who can put things into context. The ability to take an idea and narrow or broaden it is crucial for PR practitioners when they are pitching to the media and communicating to the target audience. Throughout the career, a PR practitioner will need to work with different levels of people. The ability to adjust, leverage dissimilar opinions and solve problems will be an invaluable asset. While others may be frustrated or threatened by new ideas, a good PR practitioner usually stands out as a flexible and open-minded professional.
Conscientiousness is to show self-discipline, act dutifully, and aim for achievement. This means a preference for planned rather than spontaneous behavior. Being sufficiently self-disciplined is very important in a PR role as the job requires one to work independently with multi-tasking skills and sometimes out of office hours. It is very likely that you will have to call the assignment editor close to midnight to confirm his attendance to an event or taking part in crisis-control initiatives where you may be handling media enquiries in the middle of drafting a press statement.
And last but not the least, the best PR people must always stay fresh and be ready to evolve. Today, the role of public relations professionals is changing because of the shift from traditional to online media. Many PR professionals are reskilling and looking at how social media can impact a brand's reputation. If you are thinking of entering this profession, be prepared to take up new challenges as you are pursuing your career.