Years ago, I joined a cohort of youngsters who were choosing their careers. As ever, it was not an easy task. My choices ranged between advertising, internal communications, market research, direct marketing, public relations (PR) and brand building.
My seniors advised me to pick an area I was passionate about and had a distinctive edge. It had to be in demand and had to be challenging to sustain my interest for the times to come. I decided that it was going to be in PR. Rather than telling you why I chose PR over the other interesting options, let me share me share the details of the job.
The PR function requires a deep understanding of diverse roles that various professionals (read journalists), play in every media. The PR professional needs an ability to find news from huge reams of papers, usually called a brief. Having found the news you need to embellish it with facts, figures, graphics, illustrations — and enough evidence to support your point. Very often you have to think of a photo opportunity that will make a great photograph, one that is likely to be used.
Whether it is a simple product announcement to enhance visibility or a sustained image building campaign, a PR professional can give a strategic input to get the message across.
To be a successful PR professional you need to be well-read. This habit has to be supplemented with a heavy dosage of reading newspapers, magazines and television news.
It is important to have exceptional writing skills. The less the number of words you use to express yourself, the better it is. Good writing is just the first step in forging relationships with journalists. What will strengthen the bonds will depend on how responsive you are in giving the journalist access to your spokespersons, in sharing information and how much trust can be placed on what you say. The industry today understands the value of building reputation for individuals as well as corporations. Your real challenge lies in understanding complex tasks, crafting cogent messages and acting as a credible bridge to reach the various stakeholders.
The author is an independent strategic communications and PR counsel