PR careers advice for professionals – a few thoughts

I thought I would write down my take on advice for a career in PR that I wish I had received when I started.

I’m not heading up communications for Coca Cola, which is lucky because I don’t intend to, and I don’t always practice what I preach either.

However I think some points will hit a chord.

I wish I had someone whisper it to me when I was at school, and college and after leaving college although I am sure that this thinking would not have been common back then.  I cannot say that I would have listened.

I don’t altogether like the 10 tips evangelists and gurus.  Sometimes they seem a little glib.  However, if you bear with me then I think I have a point and would like feedback.

A little foresight is a wonderful thing

If knowledge and experience was given early on it would make life much easier, but it is rarely the case for most of us.

“Life’s tragedy is that we get old to soon and wise too late.” Benjamin Franklin

Anyway, I am making my Spanish learning comeback and the process of learning a foreign language is actually a useful mirror for reflecting on many (not all) aspects of PR careers.

My PR tips

These are my thoughts in staying afloat / building / continuing / soaring in a PR or marketing career (as currently influenced by learning Spanish):

Enjoy it – If you don’t enjoy it then it is going to be hard work.  So enjoy it or pick something else.

Skills – Like grammar, you need the framework and in this sense IT skills are key.  I don’t mean MS Office (as important as it is as this should be standard); I mean skills that differentiate you and help you function more effectively.  Hence I am going to improve my WordPress skills in the near future.

It goes without saying that good English is crucial.

Languages – Will Spanish or German, or if you have 4 years or so to learn Mandarin, help?  It could.  However many PR professionals cannot express themselves in more than English.  (I have seen a recent release that put that minimal assumption to the test).

Languages  are worth doing for many reasons that do not include career motives.  Yes, it might really help although I know plenty of successful people in PR and marketing that are not multilingual.

Reading – I read a piece by a PR professional where he recounted asking what interviewees would reply to the question: “What are you reading?”

Most would say something to show their utter dedication to PR along these lines: “I am too busy to read, I am so committed to my job!”

This immediately lost them any chance of progress to the next round.  You should read widely and be insatiably curious.

Sector knowledge – I think PR professionals that have in-depth sector knowledge can have a huge advantage.

If you can combine bio-science with communications, you will be in demand.

If you are less technical then industry knowledge is also important, say legal sector.  Make a niche your own if you can.

Specialise – Following on from the above, if someone is an expert in professional services, brilliant, and if he or she is an expert in financial PR than that could be better still if you can combine the PR skills with the sector knowledge.