12.07.2012 | Christie Melby
In September 2012, I began an internship at Communiqué PR and it has been an amazing learning experience. My internship has allowed me to gain a better first-hand understanding of the PR profession by giving me insight into how clients and journalists work, as well as providing me with a taste of agency life. By assisting on a variety of projects and observing the team, I have come to the conclusion that there are five competencies that are truly crucial to one’s success in PR. They are as follows:
1) Being Action-Oriented –When it comes to certain business opportunities it is often first come, first served. The world is very competitive and those who are able to move quickly and with agility will be the ones who successfully capitalize on prospects presented to them. Hesitation is often the reason one may be beaten by a competitor and is typically caused by procrastination, perfectionism, risk avoidance, or all three.
Procrastination is something with which we are all familiar. Whether it comes from fatigue or being overwhelmed, it seriously detracts from one’s ability to be action-oriented. A simple way to avoid this pitfall? Break up a seemingly large, overwhelming task into smaller, more easily accomplished parts.
Perfectionism is another quality that can take away from your ability to be action-oriented. Though paying attention to detail is a critical part of this business, obsessing over a project can slow down and hinder its development. My favorite quote, when thinking about perfectionism, is “Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.”
Lastly, being action-oriented will require you to take risks. This can mean possible failure. Don’t let this intimidate you. Mistakes and failures are chances to learn.
2) Thinking Creatively– Creativity is a skill that can be developed and improved, just like any other important ability. A common mistake is considering creativity an innate quality, however, being creative does not mean being necessarily artistic or poetic. It is simply the ability to think outside of the box.
It is important to keep in mind that being creative can sometimes mean that your ideas might be uncertain, or maybe even impractical (avoiding perfectionism is important here as well.)
Brainstorming is a simple way to start thinking more creatively. When brainstorming, think of the rules of improvisational comedy: Never say no (you can say “yes, but…”).
Creativity begins with freedom, structure can be added later. Ideas that may seem crazy and impractical can often spark some of the best thinking. Consider Microsoft’s original vision statement: a computer on every desk, in every home. Initially, it was so out there it was “kind of a silly idea.” Now that this vision has seemingly come to pass, the company has changed its overarching goal. For another reference on creativity read Fostering Creativity on the Communiqué blog.
3) Maintaining a Customer Service Ethic – In most companies, success requires satisfied customers. While you can’t make everyone happy all the time, if you listen to criticisms and complaints you can work toward improving the issues that have been noted. Staying in contact with your customers and building strong relationships with them will allow you to anticipate their needs and allow your customers to contact you about any problems they may be having.
A “customer” can be anyone that you answer to and who is exchanging something of value with you, including clients and supervisors who can easily fall into this category.
4) Knowing How to Prioritize – Overwhelming yourself with too many tasks will leave you feeling stressed and unable to put forth the required amount of effort into each one.
I am often approached with a large variety of tasks that include anything from organizing the magazines and newspapers to writing a transcription or developing a press list. When trying to prioritize these tasks I often take into consideration the deadline of a task, if it affects the ability of the overall project to move forward, and the pros and cons. If there is a deadline to be met, take that into consideration and make sure you allow yourself enough time before then to effectively complete it. There is a possibility that the task you have been assigned is preventing the continuation of the overall project. If this is the case, it is important that you are not the reason it cannot move forward and that other people involved will also have enough time to finish their parts.
Lastly, by reviewing the pros and cons you will be able to accurately decide between two different assignments and evaluate how much attention should be delegated to each.
5) Possessing the Ability to Internalize Feedback – When receiving feedback, listen. Though you may not agree with all the criticism you receive, it is important that you do not dismiss feedback defensively.
Take notes on constructive criticism, and work toward improving these issues. Demonstrating that you are capable of learning from the feedback and that you take it seriously is important.
People will appreciate that you not only heard what they have to say, but you value it. When addressing the feedback you received, ask others for help, be open to new ideas, and avoid being defensive or denying that there are things you can improve upon. When taken into consideration, feedback can allow you to develop into a more polished and balanced professional.
These five traits are essential for success, regardless of industry or role. Each is challenging, but each can be improved upon. As we approach the new year, consider focusing on one or more of these as you move forward in your position.
Have you tried focusing on improving one of these traits for yourself? What did you find helpful?