5 Essential Characteristics of a Successful PR Pro

In order to be successful in the modern world of PR, there are certain essential characteristics that one must possess to fight adversity, capitalize on opportunities, maintain a positive image, encourage word of mouth, and build strategy. When initially coming up with the idea for this post, I jotted down 17 must have characteristics. Here are my top 5:

  • Thick skin – This is definitely not a profession for the timid or faint of heart. Modern PR pros need to develop the ability to withstand personal and brand criticism, and not be easily offended.
  • Resiliency – You are going to get knocked to the mat quite often, how quickly you can recover from and adjust to misfortune or change often acts as the barometer of your personal and brand image. Since you are most likely the face of your brand or provide counsel to those that are, developing or coaching resiliency is a key characteristic of a PR pro.
  • Attention to Detail – Digital communication has placed brands on the slide and under the microscope requiring meticulous review and careful planning of all communication to media and the community. An infinitesimal error can be magnified 1,000x and although few expect perfection, egregious errors, especially on first impressions, can shift the tides of sentiment from positive to negative.
  • Creativity – To say in today’s society that consumers are inundated with content and journalists receive a deluge of pitches daily is a radical understatement. Often, what tends to resonate best is creativity born of ideas outside the norm. Learn to be creative.
  • Relationship Builder – In PR, relationships are everything. The core of our profession is the ability to build rapport and bridge communication chasms through quality conversations that build strong relationships.

Although we could dedicate a week of posts on this topic, these five characteristics stand out to me as being essential. What characteristics would you add to the list?

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  • Resiliency particular comes to mind now as PRSA is attempting to redefine (or correctly define) our in business. I might add “Relationship Manager”
    to “Relationship Builder” — keeping up with those connections is a skill I have had to learn and work on. It can be so easy to reach out to someone when they are just an email message away, but maintaining a solid relationship is more difficult and it takes practice.

    • Excellent point Holly, thanks for chipping in. Relationships are PR’s middle name and managing the relationships that you build is an equally important task and a skill PR students should practice. 

  • I think what goes unmentioned, but is summed up a bit between attention to detail and creativity, is good ole fashioned Vision.  I’m interested to know what the next 12 are that you had in mind!

    • Thanks for the comment Sam. You are absolutely right – vision is an often unspoken and assumed characteristic of a PR pro. It’s hard to learn, and more of an instinctive characteristic that should be front and center in every move a PR pro makes. I hope to soon write another post with more characteristics that I came up with. Thanks again for adding to the discussion!

  • Marisa Vallbona

    Along with vision is the ability to not get stuck in the weeds. Attention to detail is very important, but so is seeing the big picture. The best public relations practitioners are those who pay attention to detail while keeping an eye on the big picture and not getting caught in the weeds.

    • Good observation Marisa. It’s so hard for PR Pros to keep many balls in the air these days and not lose sight of the core KPI’s and strategies that are essential for success in our field. The ability to prioritize is key which sometimes helps to keep things in perspective and spend the bulk of our time on initiatives that matter as opposed to getting bogged down on details that don’t have the most impact on the bottom line. Thanks for your comments.

  •  Great post, I need some filler material on my blog, so I’ll share this with a backlink. Thanks for the valuable post with great insight. My Top 2 (or maybe 3) are going to be highlighted on my blog syndication 😉

  •  Great post, I need some filler material on my blog, so I’ll share this with a backlink. Thanks for the valuable post with great insight. My Top 2 (or maybe 3) are going to be highlighted on my blog syndication 😉

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  • As I come closer to graduating with a public relations major, I have seen an overall theme with all my classes: ethics. I think it is essential to have a personal code of ethics just in case I am put in a questionable position during my career. I know with the PRSA Code of Ethics, public relations practitioners should be on the same page, but I think people have to make a personal connection with those vows in order for that to be true. I have studied many cases where ethics were put on the back burner and they never turned out well. Thank you for your advice; this post was especially insightful. 

    • Great point Martina, and thank you for adding to the discussion. It seems as we have advanced into an age where transparency is a must for businesses, and the issue of ethics has taken center stage more often than in the past. I think that previously, ethics slip ups may have been easier to cover up or sweep under the rug so no one would know but today, there are less chances to veil egregious ethics violations. As a student, it is vitally important to learn and practice proper ethics right out of the gate so it becomes ingrained in every step you take throughout your career. Excellent insight, and thank you again for stopping by.

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  • Mphathi Sibiya

    my question is what would it take for one to be a successful PR Practitioner at a young age and basically have the expertise to work with people over seas.