Professional Development is a MUST

January 25, 2012 | Author
Public Relations practitioners are busy. We all know this and we all live this every day. With all the juggling that PR pros do it is easy for professional development to fall off of the radar. But to advance in your career you must have the personal drive to squeeze that luncheon on to the calendar, read industry blogs during breakfast and seek out the counsel of PR peers.

“Public Relations activities and protocols are not what they were even three years ago,” says Margaret Barchine, APR, Communications Manager at National Alcohol Beverage Control Association. “ The pace at which technology changes, the communications styles of varying generations entering the workplace, public relations practices and protocols and many factors influence the need to keep up with these evolutions. Professional development is a means of doing that.”

While the goal of professional development is to continue to be a student of the trade and stay up to date on trends in the industry there are a few additional benefits for both practitioner and employer:

  • Networking– Of course if you leave the office and go to a luncheon you will meet other people. It is not always about the business card exchange. It is about making a connection that you may need to call upon for your employer or client.
  • Knowledge base– Case studies of campaigns that have succeeded or tanked, can be a resource to a practitioner to provide insight and examples that they can refer to in their work with management or clients.
  • Leadership skills– By participating in a professional development organization frequently members are calls upon to serve as a board member. This opportunity can help to provide hands on leadership skills and insights to those lacking a leadership or management position in the work place.
  • Efficiency– Hearing the opportunities and challenges of other organizations and peers through lunch and learns can help save time in your own campaign research, execution and evaluation.
  • Creativity– Ideas can be sparked from knowing what is out there that has been done, can be done or has yet to be done. Professional development can be the spark needed to generate the next big idea for your organization.
  • Career development– the PR industry is very competitive and great PR jobs are sometimes hard to find. Know that you will set yourself apart in the stack of resumes through your insight to the industry and understanding of the industry trends.

A PR pro who is actively learning and developing their skill set means that the employer is receiving better counsel, better work and better results. It is a win for both the employee and the employer the challenge is finding the time to make sure it is ingrained into your routine and personal growth plan. Professional development is a commitment but also a reward.

“A college degree provides baseline knowledge and is a good starting point but these days everybody has one,” says Linda Pophal of Strategic Communications. “Additional professional development is required to stand out, to stay current, and ultimately, to stay marketable.”

Original article can be found at: Professional Development is a MUST | PRBreakfastClub

14 Essentials for PR Newbies!

If you’re thinking about entering the public relations field—either as a first job out of college or as a career switch—consider doing some research before making the leap.
The PR industry is moving and changing fast—though many traditional values still apply—and it’s hard for even PR veterans to keep up. The Internet, social media, and mobile devices have contributed to the rapid changes, but it’s not simply technology that makes it a tough job. There are also more competitors, as well as savvy clients who demand more for less.

All of us like to think we’re the best at what we do, but beware. As a PR professional, you’re never finished learning, growing, and listening. I have learned more in the last two years of my career than I did in the first 10.
So, if you think you are cut out for this business, here’s what you need to do:

Be tough: You can’t win for your clients if you don’t know how to advocate and fight the good fight. If you don’t know what that means, you will find out quickly.

Dedicate yourself to learning: Those who go the extra mile to learn on their own will make it further. Firms are working with limited resources and don’t have time to spoon-feed newbies. If you learned how to do a research paper in college, apply those techniques on the job.

Read the paper every day: You wouldn’t believe how many of my employees didn’t think reading the news was a priority. They don’t work for me anymore.

Learn a client’s industry and their business: How can you add value if you don’t know how your clients make money? Get in the trenches. Study your clients and their competition.

Gain social media savvy: You can’t expect to move up if you aren’t on social media, unless, of course, you work for a monster PR firm and someone else is doing all the work. Even then, it’s important that any PR professional know his or her way around the social Web.  It’s easier than ever before to have access to reporters, bloggers, and influential people online.  Follow them, watch them, and engage.

Network: The future belongs to those who can do the work and sell the work. Build relationships in the business community. Get involved in civic and charitable organizations, and don’t expect your company to pay for it all. You must invest in yourself.

Develop your oral and written communication skills: If you don’t know how to research a company and write a press release, you won’t make it in this field. 

Watch business trends and analyze their impact on clients: In time, this trait will come to those who are naturally curious. I love curiosity, because it breeds creativity and ingenuity. Employers, seek employees who are naturally curious.

Put in extra time: Think your job should be 9 to 5? When you have billed and collected three times what you are paid and have mastered managing client accounts, then it’s OK. If you do the math, you’ll find out that new PR candidates are not typically productive in their first few years. It takes time to cultivate a career; the extra time you put in will help you achieve it faster.
Think career, not job: I can tell the difference between those who want a career in PR and those who want a job. Big difference. If you just want a job, accept that you may not advance. Someone else in your firm will seize the opportunity and pass you. If you are on a career path, show it—accomplish tasks and projects that add value (read: are billable to clients).

Realize the importance of teamwork: Be part of the bigger picture. Help your teammates, and pick up the ball if a team member drops it.

Understand the math: Professional service firms (lawyers, certified public accounts, etc.) use the formula that each employee must bill (and collect) three times what he or she makes to be considered “worth it.” Firms have overhead, accounting fees, legal fees, payroll, rent, insurance, and so. There is no money tree; the producers go out and get the work.

Identify new clients and opportunities: Bring in the work, and you will be twice as valuable.

Communicate proactively with clients: This is one of the most important things young people must do. Pick up the phone. Emails don’t count as a blanket form of communication. Get in front of the client. Have a report to send? Take it to the client.
In the end, it is still about relationships. If the PR firm/client relationship is good, chances are the client will be forgiving if mistakes are made. The key is in avoiding costly mistakes and understanding the characteristics that will make you invaluable at a firm.

With more than 25 years of PR and marketing experience, Amy Howell serves as CEO of Howell Marketing Strategies (HMS). A version of this story first appeared on the company’s blog.

Original article can be found at:

The Skills Employers Desire in Today’s PR Professional

What are employers looking for in the PR pro of today?

I asked the people who are making the hiring decisions: agency owners, recruiters, and HR people across the industry three key questions:

1. What’s one skill that every PR pro needs today and why?
2. What’s one PR skill that you see evolving—and becoming critical to success—in the years ahead?
3. What’s the one skill you currently have the hardest time finding in the marketplace as you recruit for new talent?

Here’s what they had to say:

Jorg Pierach, President, Fast Hors

What’s one skill that every PR pro needs today and why?

Curiosity. The curious are rich in a business where information is the currency.

What’s one PR skill that you see evolving—and becoming critical to success—in the years ahead?

Storytelling. If content is king, by 2015 it will be Master of the Galaxy and All That Lies Beyond. If you can’t tell a story in that environment, you will be irrelevant.

What’s the one skill you currently have the hardest time finding in the marketplace as you recruit for new talent?

Patience. What’s with the hopping around from job to job these days? I’ve found that the best people in our business are ones who tend to stay in positions for many years, not months.

They build strong business relationships and give themselves time to really grow their skills and find a toehold. That’s hard to do if you spend all of your time chasing whatever is next.

Lisa Simon, vice president of human resources, Weber Shandwick

What’s one skill that every PR pro needs today and why?

Without a doubt, it’s the ability to think strategically by identifying the appropriate vehicle(s) for delivering content on behalf of our clients. Weber Shandwick just created a new communications framework to help brands excel in today’s diverse content and conversation-driven news environment. It reinvents public relations.

What’s one PR skill that you see evolving—and becoming critical to success—in the years ahead?

If I answered this question a year ago, or even a few months ago, I would have said “demonstrated knowledge of digital communications and social media.” But that seems so obvious, doesn’t it?

Our industry is changing so rapidly because of digital and social media that having these skills is simply the ticket through the door. The challenge has become finding links between online and traditional media and using those connections to expand the storytelling conversations.

What’s the one skill you currently have the hardest time finding in the marketplace as you recruit for new talent?

I’m repeating myself, I know, but I’d have to say strategic thinking within a highly social and information-driven world.

Beth Ward, regional talent recruiter, Fleishman Hillard

What’s one skill that every PR pro needs today and why?

I think all PR pros need to posses solid writing skills. Public relations relies on content to tell a story. Writing can be transformed into pictures, video, games or apps, but in order to create that content you need to spell it out.

The act of writing also ensures that the content will be appropriate. It forces organization and completion of thought. At Fleishman-Hillard, every candidate we interview must take a writing test, which, along with personal interviews, help us determine a candidate’s creativity, attention to detail, organization, and strategy.

What’s one PR skill that you see evolving—and becoming critical to success—in the years ahead?

It’s important to think in concepts. Because PR counselors have so many more channels to deliver messages beyond broadcast, radio, and print we need to think in themes.

Having a theme allows the communicator to build tactics relevant to delivery channels, but ties them together so that the objectives and messages aren’t lost in the execution. Concepts organize and reinforce tactics. It’s the glue that holds the program together.

What’s the one skill you currently have the hardest time finding in the marketplace as you recruit for new talent?

The rapid changes in communication and the explosion of channels make it hard to find someone who has experience working with traditional media relations, social communications, and digital applications.

Our clients are asking for those types of integrated programs, but finding individuals who have executed them at the senior level is challenging. It’s particularly tough to find experienced, integrated business-to- business communicators.

Rebecca Martin, director of marketing operations, Beehive PR

What’s one skill that every PR pro needs today and why?

Curiosity. If you aren’t curious, PR is the wrong field to get into, because our business and our client’s businesses are in a constant state of change.

Having an innate sense of curiosity drives PR pros to want to learn more, uncover new insights, offer fresh ideas, think in new ways, ask hard questions, and make the everyday exceptional.

From interns to CEOs, asking the right questions, doing critical research, and being a voracious reader and learner are the foundation for achieving success for our clients—and earning our own professional success.

What’s one PR skill that you see evolving—and becoming critical to success—in the years ahead?

Writing. It might be surprising to list such a core PR skill here, but as communications channels continue to evolve, writing skills must evolve, too.

Who ever thought 10 years ago that a PR pro would be writing news releases based on SEO [search engine optimization] key words or writing the equivalent of ad copy for Facebook posts?

Memos 15 years ago were long, printed out, and distributed by hand. Emails today are short, bulleted, and hopefully include key points or action items within the “preview” pane. Today PR is in the business of content creation. Tomorrow that will change. Writing is fundamental, but it is forever challenging us to adapt.

What’s the one skill you currently have the hardest time finding in the marketplace as you recruit for new talent?

Confident client consulting. PR pros often are taught to over service, saying “yes” at all costs and skipping past asking “why?”. This practice can be at the expense of the client’s budget, the PR person’s own credibility, and even the best solution for the brand.

Many senior-level PR pros simply haven’t developed the skills of confidently, but respectfully pushing back, asking the hard questions, being candid and, ultimately, helping inspire something better.

Rachel Kay, president, RKPR

What’s one skill that every PR pro needs today and why?

Every PR pro needs be creative and resourceful. We’re very fortunate in that our jobs never offer the same day twice, which also means we can’t offer a one-size-fits all solution for clients and programs.

PR pros need to be able to think outside the box and challenge clients to take risks and try new things. That’s how we learn and grow and create results that transcend the norm.

What’s one PR skill that you see evolving—and becoming critical to success—in the years ahead?

PR pros need a better grasp of search engine optimization (SEO)—this is an area that doesn’t have to be outside of our arsenal, and it’s important to ensure our clients are getting the most from our communication.

What’s the one skill you currently have the hardest time finding in the marketplace as you recruit for new talent?

It’s pretty simple. I really struggle to find talent that understands the value of research and using what they learn to build relationships. I know when they can’t do that when reaching out to me, they won’t be able to do that for our clients and with key influencers.

Gini Dietrich, president, Arment Dietrich

What’s one skill that every PR pro needs today and why?

Every PR pro needs to understand search and how it affects content. With owned media, content is becoming one of the best ways to engage customers, generate leads, nurture those leads, and eventually convert them to sales.

While PR will work with marketing and sales on this, it will become a completely integrated process that every professional needs to understand. And search is the part about getting found, which is critical to any owned media program.

What’s one PR skill that you see evolving—and becoming critical to success—in the years ahead?

Reputation management. Typically that’s left to the people who specialize in it, but the skill will evolve as everyone will need to be protective of brands and reputations, especially online.

What’s the one skill you currently have the hardest time finding in the marketplace as you recruit for new talent?

Phew. Just one? I’d say it’s understanding analytics and metrics and how to measure that to gross margins. In fact, our profession is completely missing an understanding of business, so it’s really difficult to find pros who get it.

Arik C. Hanson is the principal of ACH Communications in Minnesota. He blogs at Communications Conversations, where a version of this story first appeared.

This article is courtesy of

Writing and PR: Like Peas and Carrots

Public relations, like many things in life, is 90 percent perspiration and 10 percent inspiration. Many people have a misconception of what we do (even our family). Writing is something that is a part of a PR pro’s daily hourly duty. PR isn’t about rubbing elbows with celebrities and throwing extravagant parties for clients. But, I’m speaking to the choir on this.

Any PR pro knows the importance of honing their writing skills. It’s a must. If we didn’t, we wouldn’t be anywhere in the PR world. Not only do we have to craft the perfect pitch for media, we have to write compelling press releases and blog posts people find interesting.

What one-person finds interesting, another may find extremely boring. There is a fine line between mass appeal, and a flop. Have I ever written something uninteresting? Absolutely. Did I learn from it? You bet. Writing is one of those tricky things you have to be constantly working at. If not, you will fall behind the pack and left in the dust.

Be Different
When breaking news hits, everyone will be writing about it. What can you bring to the table? Have I read a ton of articles on how to write better? You bet ya, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t learn something new.

Try coming to the subject from a new angle. What HASN’T someone reported? If you don’t have access to inside details, do some research. You are smart, put your two cents in. No one is born an “expert.” You have to position yourself or client as one. Be different, it’s okay.

Format for Skimming
Do you read every word of a post? I don’t—even if it’s a great one. We all learned in PR 101 to have your most important information at the beginning of the article. That is still true, but bold headings help as well.

For example, in this post, you can get all major points from the bolded headings. This way, you can decide what is worth your time to read fully, and what points are most important if you don’t have time to read the entire post.

Fast Doesn’t Mean Forget
Sometimes we only have an hour to get a press release written. This doesn’t mean you should forget your facts. When you get in a hurry, or know you’re on a tight deadline, you can start to stress yourself out. This is just natural, but it doesn’t mean you should throw out everything you know how to do well.

Make a checklist if you have to. I know what mistakes I tend to make when I’m writing fast. As a result, I have a checklist I keep on my desk. This reminds me of what to look out for when I’m self editing.

Have someone else read your release, article or anything else going out for the public to read. We know what the copy is supposed to say, and sometimes our brain reads what it should say, and not what it really says.

Be Concise
Do you need every word in the sentence you just wrote? Keep it short, simple and to the point. You don’t have to tell the reader what your going to say, then say it. Just say it—we are all busy get to the point. Your copy will be better for it, and your readers will be appreciative as well.

Avoid Large Words
You’re smart, but it doesn’t mean you have to use large words. They are harder to read, and make it more difficult to skim. You can sound smart without using a 10-letter word for smart, when you can just say smart.

What Helps You?
These are just a few things that help me when I’m writing. What helps you? We all have our own techniques for great writing. Share the knowledge!

Shannon Evans Suetos is an online marketer living is San Diego, and the owner of What’s Your Two Cents?  WYTC is a blog dedicated to reporting the latest trending news topics to spark a conversation among readers. You can also follow Shannon on Twitter @ShannonEvansSM.

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