10 ways to be an effective PR person (even if you’re just starting out)

Hannah Baird, Morrison Media

Written by Hannah Baird, Trainee Account Executive. Hannah is currently doing a Digital Marketing Diploma at QA Apprenticeships. As part of the content marketing module, Hannah set about writing this blog…

  1. Consume news

Consuming news is the only way to master writing in different styles to suit different audiences. For example, the way you’ll write for business press is very different to copy you’ll send to the tabloids.

I suggest reading The Herald for business press release inspiration; the Daily Record to soak up tabloid language; the Economist and the New Statesman to learn how to write brilliant technical pieces and the New Yorker for, to describe in verbatim, ‘unparalleled reporting and commentary on politics and culture’.

The creative writing in the New Yorker blows me away. If you want to work on your word choice and sentence structure, it will be your new best friend.

  1. Be a little obsessed

There’s a grey area between obsession and competence. It’s a weirdly comforting little land.

Make sure you check everything. Then check it again. Even better, have someone else check it. Sometimes you need a fresh pair of eyes as it’s easy to overlook mistakes in work you’ve been looking at for a while.

This applies to emails too. Question if the words you’ve used could be misinterpreted. Ensure the information is clearly laid out. Have you spelt names correctly? Remember, some clients like chat, some just want the absolute facts.

Preparation is key. Run through conversations in your head before you make important phone calls, anticipating things you may be asked and things you may want to ask.

  1. Take the initiative

Don’t wait for opportunities, find them. Seize the narrative of your next six-month review. Think about areas you want to build skills in and how you are going to do it.

Contact Skills Development Scotland. I managed to secure funding for a digital marketing course through them.

Search for online courses and YouTube tutorials. There is a lot of great material on YouTube showing you how to use iMovie and InDesign, for example. Join the CIPR and the PRCA and get accredited. Invest time into your own professional development.

  1. Do what you say you will

In PR, being organised is just as important as being an excellent writer. You need to be reliable. Write things down. Plan. Make lists. Don’t set yourself unrealistic deadlines.

  1. Manage expectations

Have accountability. If you think a plan is unrealistic, take responsibility. Tell those concerned it is unrealistic, explain why and offer a solution.  

To manage expectations, it is essential to project manage effectively. The client has to know exactly what they are getting.

Producing video content is a good example to illustrate this. Professional quality video is expensive. There is a huge difference between producing video content on a low budget and using a professional videographer. The client needs to be briefed on this. Otherwise, they may expect videographer quality content on a shoestring budget.

Remember, things can change. Expect the unexpected.

  1. Engage brain

Don’t do stupid things. Think it through.

Whilst this sounds obvious, it’s something to always be aware of. PR requires a lot of joined up thinking.

As a defender of reputation, you need to be able to consider the consequences of every action you take and the advice you give.

  1. Build a network

Connections are good, friends are better. There are different types of friends. You can have professional friends.

As a PR person, you need to have relationships with the media, influencers and the wider PR community.

Go to events and engage with people on social media. When you meet people, follow it up. Add them on LinkedIn. Suggest a coffee.

  1. Listen

You learn more by listening than talking. If you’re talking a lot, you may not be listening enough.  

If there’s an awkward pause in a meeting, don’t feel you have to fill the silence. Some people may leave a pause to see if you waffle on.

  1. Forgive yourself

You’ll make mistakes. Don’t beat yourself up, make sure you learn from it.

  1. Have fun

PR is a wonderful industry! Enjoy it.

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