BY ELIZABETH YEONG
Since I entered the public relations sector not too long ago, I find myself frequently having to explain what people in PR really do. It’s a job that may not be as clearly defined as some others, partly due to changing roles and advancements in technology.
While the role of a PR professional constantly evolves, it is useful to recognise that there are certain immutable skills, habits and knowledge that remain the bedrock of communications. These skills, habits and knowledge help us carry out our job of helping organisations and individuals communicate and engage with their audiences.
Here are a few examples:
Ability to create compelling content
Many people view the role of a PR practitioner as the ‘middleman’ between an organisation and its audiences, and reserve the term ‘creative freedom’ for the advertising and marketing industries. On the contrary, all three are not dissimilar.
PR practitioners act as the link between an organisation and the people it wants to connect with, and it is therefore crucial for PR folks to be able to build platforms and create compelling content for the organisation to “sell” its key messages. This constitutes a form of brand communications that seeks to promote and position the brand in the eyes of the target audience. This means that practitioners need to turn ideas into engaging and high-impact content that can echo the organisation’s story.
Adaptability in a dynamic work environment
If there’s one thing I’ve learnt about PR, it’s that the job is never stale. There is no fixed set of rules that govern your day, and you can expect new work to come and infiltrate that neat to-do list you had all planned out. This means you need to be well-prepared for anything that might happen throughout the day, with a ready skill set that spans the drafting of communications documents, media relations, client meetings, content generation and event management.
If you’re in an agency environment, adapting your style and approach to best suit your clients’ needs as you bounce from one area of work to another, or indeed, from one client to another, will help to train your versatility. This not only applies to your writing style, but also to your communication, research, thinking and organisational styles.
Apart from tailoring your styles, being able to adapt to changing norms and evolving technology will play an integral role in staying one step ahead in the industry. The growing focus on the importance of visuals and the gravitation towards digital media platforms mean that the formats we use to get our messages out must change. Capitalising on changes in technology will further allow us to help our clients understand the best ways to tell their stories.
A curious mind
In a PR agency, we service clients from a wide range of industries, such as F&B, property and financial services, as well as non-profit organisations on a pro bono basis. While this provides a great deal of exposure to the respective industries of your clients, it also means that some degree of knowledge of and familiarity with each industry will give you an edge and the confidence to be the spokesperson and representative for your client.
Of course, it is vital to know your client thoroughly. However, the willingness to learn about the latest happenings in their industry, as well as the relevance, implications and impact on the broader economy and other developments, will allow you to not only understand your client better, but also broaden your overall knowledge of the sector.
Check, check and double check
It can be said that attention to detail is required for all jobs, but this is especially so for PR, since your work output is likely to be seen and propagated by many. The importance of making sure your work is devoid of mistakes cannot be overstated. The good news is that this skill can be developed and honed over time, and it will serve you well in everything you do.
PR work also entails short turnaround times, tight deadlines and an overall sense of unpredictability. Clients often seek immediate results, expecting tasks to be completed as quickly as possible. There is therefore a risk that the pressure that accompanies this pace of work gets the better of us, and that mistakes will occur. Fortunately, the balance between speed and accuracy is one that can be achieved with time and practice.
The skills that I’ve listed above are of course, by no means exhaustive. After almost two years in the business, I’m still learning the ropes and learning every day. The learning curve for a beginner in PR can be steep, but therein lies the challenges that can motivate you to learn more. As long as you are determined to be adaptable, precise, creative and hungry, the other skills will come with time.
Elizabeth is an Executive at Newgate Communications who joined the agency in late 2017, after just over two years in the non-profit sector. She studied at the University of Melbourne in Australia, and although Melbourne’s coffee culture and graffiti lanes call out to her occasionally, Singapore still remains very much her home.