Public Relations isn’t the easiest sector to define, especially when you add communications into the title.
The two assumptions you’ll likely hear from friends and family are, “Isn’t that just propaganda?” and, “So it’s like marketing?”. Most of the time, you’ll smile and politely say, “No,” to the first question and, “Kinda,” to the second; this is because it’s easier than spending twenty minutes trying to explain the murky origins of PR and the countless areas within it.
There isn’t any one key skill that will grant you entry into the world of PR and Comms. Hard-skills like copywriting and data research can be learnt over time, but here are our five key soft-skills that every PR and Comms professional needs:
Confidence — Despite what you may think, PR and Comms isn’t just for extroverts. You don’t have to be the most outgoing person in the room or the life of the party to succeed, but you do need to be confident. Being able to charge head first into a task, take the reins and manage any crisis that occur is a valuable skill to have in this field, as well as having confidence in your work.
Communication — You might think this one speaks for itself, but your ability to communicate can set you apart from the rest. It can be as simple as just being able to make conversation with a stranger. In PR and Comms, team-led projects and pitching to clients will be a part of your daily work life. You may be working for a client whose expertise is far from your own or working in a team of people who come from completely different backgrounds. Your success can depend on being able to build long-term relationships with these clients and team members.
Creativity — No, you don’t need to be Picasso or Taylor Swift to work in PR and Comms but you do need to be able to think differently. In this digital age, campaigns need engaging messages to capture the attention of their target audiences. Moreover, every activity you plan, whether it’s a social media post or a press release, should encourage your audience to act. If your client is a charity, you may be encouraging people to donate or to join their newsletter and your activities should achieve that goal.
An Eye For Detail — This skill isn’t limited to finding spelling errors, though that can be a crucial skill in itself. When you work for a client, you’re working for their brand and ultimately, for their identity. When you produce content for them, it should feel like you’re putting on a costume – and not a cheap, shop-bought Halloween costume – but a well-crafted cosplay that wins first place at a convention. If a client’s identity focuses on kindness and positivity, your campaign strategy and its key messages should reflect that.
Honesty — Although the history of PR and Comms is often linked to propaganda, you’ll find that in this field, honesty is always the best policy. When working for a client, the content you produce should be truthful. Any angle you write should be emphasising your client’s best qualities, not fabricating them. Honesty also applies to your personal abilities too. Learning to ask for help when you need it is a stubborn perfectionist’s nightmare, but in a field where your team and your clients depend on you, it can make or break your project.
Passion — Although not a skill as such, and perhaps not the most obvious requirement, being passionate about your work is crucial in this industry. Entering PR and Comms shouldn’t be about wanting to earn more money or schmoosing at events, it should be about genuine interest. There are parts of this job that will be repetitive, stressful, and even tedious no matter which area of PR and Comms you go into, but it’s your passion for the impact your work makes that will see you through.