7 Traits of a Good PR Person

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By Susanna Kalnes | September 9, 2019

One of the biggest pet peeves I have is the term PR gal.  “I’ll have my PR gal do it.” 

This just rubs me the wrong way.  For starters, not all PR professionals are “gals” — but also, this term tends to be thrown around all willy-nilly, typically by people who don’t fully understand or appreciate all that goes into being a good PR person. And believe it or not, being good at public relations goes far beyond just being a social butterfly who can write. There are many traits that need to align for one to become top of their trade. 

1. Good listener. There’s a big emphasis on writing when it comes to PR, and rightfully so — but we’ll get to that later. Before writing skills even matter in the slightest, one must be a good and active listener. Being able to listen to your clients’ needs and preferences is equally important to being able to listen to the feedback you are getting from journalists. 

Plowing through public relations with your preferences and needs in mind — or the needs of one party (client vs. media) over the other — is typically a recipe for zero media coverage and/or an unhappy client. Always listen first. 

2. Creative mind. Having the ability to create influential ideas, sometimes out of thin air, is a very powerful skill. If you ever encounter a PR person who says, “there’s simply no story angles here that the media would actually cover,” he or she may be lacking creativity. There is always a new idea to explore. And by the way, creativity isn’t simply suggesting a Father’s Day story on Father’s Day.

3. Deadline oriented. This perhaps goes without saying, but in any profession that is media-driven, it’s supremely important to be deadline oriented. But in addition to being on top of all deadlines, it’s also important to be flexible, as journalists’ schedules and timelines supersede yours. 

4. Problem-solver. A good PR person never backs down from a challenge. Whether that challenge is creating messaging to overcome a crisis situation or generating national news coverage from an event that has a $0.00 budget, a good PR person finds a solution and executes on it. 

5. Excellent writer. Perhaps a no-brainer at this point, but writing is key to being successful in public relations. Being able to communicate in a succinct manner that drives action in other people is no small task, though. It comes with lots of practice, active listening, and a desire to improve daily.

6. Good negotiator. PR people are the “middlemen/middlewomen” between the press and a business. As such, a PR person will take into consideration what each entity requires to present a story that pleases all parties. This can be anything from a journalist requiring a spokesperson who isn’t financially tied to the company to dictating an announcement embargo date per the goals of the business. 

7. Inquisitive mind. Last but not least, a good PR person is one who comes to the table with a sense of adventure and an inquisitive mind. Almost like a child who has found the word “why” for the first time, a good PR person will ask lots of penetrating questions up-front, will seek out new answers, and will be able to — in real-time — translate the answers into potential story angles. He or she should be able to continue this process with the same level of excitement over many years working with the same business.