Recently while speaking with aspiring PR pros, we were asked the five most valuable things we’ve learned in our 15+ years of experience in this hectic industry. We couldn’t come up with just five (though brevity is the soul of PR, it’s one we clearly haven’t mastered), so these are the ten most important things we’ve learned while evolving from faxing pitches to broadcast newsrooms to messaging TikTok influencers. The more things change, the more they stay the same. And these remain our guiding principles in our business.
- The best clients are the ones you go after.
Chasing after RFPs is futile and a waste of your resources. Find the clients that you’re passionate about, and let them know. They might not need your help right away, but everyone likes to be wanted.
- Keeping up with the joneses is impossible. Find your niche and own it.
The list of skills PR practitioners are expected to know keeps growing as new technology emerges. We’ve seen job listings requiring everything from video editing to graphic design (no and no). There’s simply too much to know, too much to learn, and too much to do. Trying to be the jack of all trades means you’re the master of none.
- No technology or tool will ever replace empathy.
AI might be able to write a blog post for you (it didn’t write this one!), but the ability to have relationships is the singular most critical factor in this industry. Nothing will replace human connection and more importantly, empathy, and that is the hallmark of PR.
- Even if others don’t appreciate honesty, you always should.
It can be maddening and frustrating when your honesty “backfires” and you get a reporter or a client who makes you feel like it’s a burden rather than an attribute. Don’t let a lack of appreciation for transparency turn into a bitter pill. Honesty is still the best policy, and you’ll sleep better at night for it.
- Your gut instinct is always right.
If you’ve got red flags about a client or a potential media opportunity, they will turn out to be true. Always trust your first instinct. You’ll waste valuable time trying to justify something that just don’t quite feel right.
- Change is inevitable. Beat it to the punch.
The hallmark of crisis communication is to be prepared for anything. That preparation should extend to all facets of an industry relying on being on top of trends. Digital media is moving at lightning speed and you want to be one step ahead always or risk being left behind.
- You never stop being a student.
Every day there is something to learn, and the best tactics are taken from daily life. You might be a grizzled PR veteran or you might be a recent graduate full of confidence; no matter who you are, open your capacity to learn and your ability to do PR increases tenfold.
- New doesn’t always mean better; don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater.
Take what works from old tactics and mix it up with the shiny new things. After all, the most basic tenent of PR remains relationships, and while the way that you conduct relationships have changed, the ability to connect hasn’t. Evolution is key.
9. PR is difficult to do, and valued.
If you’ve seen those statistics about PR practitioners outnumbering journalists by a terrifying margin, you know that the number of news outlets have shrunk considerably. Newsrooms no longer have dedicated beat reporters and the rotating door means you’re constantly updating your media database. The amount of noise that you have to cut through is tremendous, but there’s a reason everyone still wants to see their name in “print.” PR moves the needle for brands better than anything else.
- Honest PR has never been more needed.
There are too many dishonest snake oil salespeople, or even worse, chaos-lovers who just want to burn it all down. With a lack of fact-checking and the lightning speed of communications today, lies reach too many people too quickly and it’s a bell that can’t be unrung. Every PR practitioner’s duty must be to be truthful, and that’s never been more critical than now.