When you ask people what the top things a PR professional should know or learn are, you hear a variety of answers.
They are things such as knowing math, being good at technology, staying on top of the latest trends understanding both business processes and operations and more. But what are the most important characteristics great PR professionals should possess?
Whether new to PR or an industry veteran, there are five traits I believe to be essential in 2015 and the years to come:
1. Paying attention to details
In a world with so much happening at the same time, people’s attention spans are less than three seconds. With so much content to read, tools to understand and clients that are highly demanding, PR professionals must be able to pay attention to details.
Focus on your task at hand and forget about Twitter, Facebook, phone, emails or colleagues.
This so-called multitasking is just making you waste valuable time. Pay attention to the task at hand and forget distractions.
2. Listening to understand, not to reply
Martin Waxman said it well in his recent post, “Why do so many people suck at communications“: Many PR professionals rely on their egos to lead their communications, and it prevents them from actually communicating.
We listen to respond, not to understand. When PR pros are so focused on getting our own ideas out, we forget who’s talking and what they are trying to say.
Instead, take a step back, relax and make a concentrated effort to really hear the other person.
Let them speak, gather your thoughts and then give an educated answer.
You are a PR professional, trained to communicate your clients’ messages and represent them in front of the world, online and offline. You must practice what you preach.
Knowing your target audience requires listening to them in a way that allows you to understand who they are, what they need and how you can best craft your response to resonate with them directly.
3. Always being curious
The first time I heard about it was in college in my communications class, but it’s not old school and it’s not new. It’s a fact.
If you want to succeed as a PR professional, you must be curious.
Find out details that are not visible at first sight (see trait No. 1) and learn about new things happening in your industry that can better help your client-whether tactics or strategies.
When you are curious, you are a step ahead of what’s happening in the PR industry, your client’s industry and the world in general.
You also develop great foresight, learning about new tools and how they can help you reach your (and your client’s) goals.
4. Providing unfailing helpfulness
Many young PR professionals only talk about themselves-what they need and who can help them.
As with any relationship, one-sided goals never win. Instead, you must be of help to others, put yourself out there and give a hand to someone who needs you.
This might be a colleague who needs advice on landing a client, someone just starting out in social media or a non-profit organization in desperate need of PR. There are endless ways you can help others, and business karma is alive and strong.
Remember, PR is about relationships, and it always has been. It’s not just about media relations, publicity and social media-it’s about building meaningful relationships with people that count. Go out there-no matter how busy you are-and offer your help.
You’ll feel better about yourself, and it will come back to you when least expected.
5. Maintaining constant professionalism
This one never goes out of style. The way you start in public relations is the way people will see you as a PR professional forever.
Be professional at all times, and learn to say no when things get out of hand or go against what you know to be right. You want to keep your head straight and sleep well at night, so don’t spin the truth or put yourself in compromising situations.
When you are a successful PR professional, it’s easy to think you’re invincible-but you are not.
In the words of Warren Buffett, “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to lose it.”
This should be your motto in your professional and personal life.
Are these traits of great PR professionals new? Of course not. But they are (or should be) a core value for every successful communicator.
In today’s crazy world, where people promise immediate success and overnight riches, we tend to forget that nothing comes for free. Want to succeed? Put in the work and dedication, and remember, nothing that’s worth having ever comes easily.
No matter how many tools you have, you still have to put in the work to get there.