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Qualities I Look For in Young PR Pros

I’m excited once again this week to participate in Minnesota PRSA’s Pro-Am Day, when students from the Upper Midwest shadow professionals and learn what it’s like to do what we do in the real world.  It’s a great opportunity for everyone to stay in touch, get to know some great people and learn by experience.

During the day, I’m sure I’ll hear a variation on the same question a lot.  How can someone can get their start in PR?  How can they distinguish themselves from the competition, or how can they make a positive impression on their employer?  It’s an easy answer for me.  Sure, polishing up your resume is important, and learning how to handle an interview is essential.  But there are a few qualities that make someone stand out for me, and jump to the top of the pile.  Here they are, in no particular order:

  • Professional PR Skills.  You have to know how to write across styles, interfaces, etc.  How to persuade, inform and entertain…the basics of communication.  How to edit copy.  How to present yourself as a professional, and not embarrass yourself or your employer in front of a client or the public.  If you can’t spell, or persuade me that you’re worth talking to, or measure up on the basics, or if you don’t know AP style, then you simply don’t stand a chance.  Sorry, but it’s true.
  • Resourcefulness.  If you don’t know the answer to something, you need to know how to find it.  In the real world, it’s okay to tell your boss you don’t know the answer to something…but it’s not okay to expect them to find the answer for you or hold your hand as you find it.  The pros who win are those who can find the information and tap the right resources to answer questions and solve problems, or at the very least come to the table with ideas of how it could be done.
  • Passion – and not just for PR.  I think the best practitioners are those who bring a strong passion in at least one other subject area to the table.  There are a few reasons why: it enables them to connect more to their work; it helps them identify with their clients and organizations; and it gives them something to do when they’re not at work to achieve balance in their life.  I’ve noticed that the more well-rounded someone is, the more likely someone is to succeed in PR.
  • Curiosity.  Are you the kind of person who seeks out information, and tries to understand the world you live in?  Do you ask good questions?  Are you coachable, and willing to roll with the punches as people provide feedback on your work, your employer, our industry, etc?  Are you interested in continual professional development and improvement?  Our business constantly evolves, and so does the way our clients ask us to do our jobs.  Pros with at least a healthy dose of curiosity – the ones who understand what they know and embrace what they don’t know – are the ones most likely to adapt to changing conditions and thrive no matter what comes along in their career.

What do you think?

Once again, I’m looking forward to a great Pro-Am Day.  Thanks to all the students for participating and investing in their futures, and to all my industry colleagues for hosting them and giving your time to these highly interested up-and-comers.

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