Published on 14th August 2023
This insights post is part of an overall #WorldcomCareers campaign. This piece was contributed by Attila Albert who is a Senior PR Consultant at GRIP in Zurich, Switzerland, career coach for media professionals and author of several career advice books.
In an age of mass mailings, marketing automation, social media platforms and ChatGPT, one basic truth is quickly forgotten: You are still dealing with humans. Despite all the technical aids, you communicate with individual clients, journalists, readers or users, consumers. PR is relationship management. Everything else is just a means for it. Here are five ways you can improve your personal communication skills which will help you become more successful throughout your career.
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As a PR professional, you are constantly in the situation of having to pitch something to editors on behalf of a client. However, you don’t always represent companies in which the media is keenly interested. Often you also don’t have any spectacular news to announce. If you are personally acquainted with editors – maybe even friends – they will do you the occasional favor and publish your client’s story anyway. Therefore, make an effort to get to know journalists, to understand their way of thinking, their interests and needs.
On behalf of clients, you often work with media that you would not read or use privately because they do not affect your own life or are of little personal interest to you. Nevertheless, follow the newspapers, magazines and websites in which you want to place your clients. Try to understand the following: Which topics are prominently placed in them, in what style are the texts written, how are they illustrated? In turn, you will better understand what gives you the best chances to land your client in these outlets, learn more about their industry, and pitch more successfully.
Throughout your career you will write, review and proofread texts, even later on as a head of communications. This includes media releases, technical articles, interviews, annual reports, scripts for videos and podcasts and much more. Your own writing and your judgment of other people’s texts will improve when you expand your vocabulary and improve your writing style. For that, regularly read actual literature – novels, short stories, and poetry. They are linguistically elevated and more complex than non-fiction books, guidebooks or news media.
Every PR professional has to win over customers, present and sell concepts, convince journalists, appear at events and talk with a wide range of people. All of this becomes easy, and soon even fun, as you practice the skills involved: showing interest in others, learning to deal with different personalities, being confident, engaging, and polite. Put this into practice by going to a variety of events regularly and getting involved. Talk to others, ask open questions, and listen carefully approximately as much as you speak yourself.
The best job opportunities, projects and budgets go to people others know and trust, to who they think is likable and competent. It is therefore crucial for your success to quickly build up a broad network within and outside your field. Set yourself a weekly or monthly goal of sustaining two existing contacts and making two new lines (e.g. within the industry, with journalists or potential customers) every week. Write a short email with a compliment, suggest meeting over coffee, arrange to meet for lunch. Plan this as an ongoing activity in your calendar.