How to sharpen your PR skills outside of work

The hardest part about public relations is that you have to be good at a bunch of things all at the same time. And our supervisors expect nothing less. Some of us only got our jobs because we had one strong skill and the rest of our skills were just…eh. And hey, don’t be ashamed! That’s how I got my last job. But now that you’re settled in, it’s time to mold yourself into the well-rounded professional you’ve always wanted to be. Instead of lacking in certain skills and overcompensating in others, let’s discuss some ways to level out your expertise.

After reading a post on Levo.com, I’ve pulled out the most important traits that I think a PR professional needs to succeed in his or her career. Below are what I considered most important and how you can help build on these traits outside of the office.

  1. Strong communication skills
    This is the no. 1 skill you will need as a PR professional. Communicating and building relationships with others is how you place your brand or client at the forefront of your public’s mind. One way to strengthen your communication skills is by participating in discussion boards and professional chat groups. Not only will you have the opportunity to network with others, but you will also learn how to talk to and interact with other professionals.
  2. Strong writing skills
    Well, duh. But let me point out that being a good writer doesn’t always mean knowing the difference between a comma and a semicolon. Being a good writer means knowing how to capture the voice of your client and using that voice to tell a story. I usually strengthen my writing the most by writing in a journal. If you go back and look at my very first post, you’ll notice that one of the things I mentioned about myself is that I like to keep journals (and I’ve done so for more than 10 years). Not to mention, I blog on here, which is another way to learn what your best writing assets are.
  3. Staying informed
    At one of my former jobs, I was in charge of promoting a new country-western movie that involved guns, horses and cowboy hats. One of the promotional items we collected were plastic shot glasses that were shaped like bullets. Simultaneously, James Holmes was just arrested for the fatal 2012 shooting at a movie theater in Aurora, CO. For that, we had to cancel our entire campaign. Now think about how insensitive that would be had we released those bullet-shaped glasses into the city. To keep yourself from making a huge mistake, subscribe to various news organizations. Follow them on Twitter, find them on LinkedIn or add the news apps on your phone. Whichever works best for you, just do it. It will save you from any future headaches.
  4. Being detail-oriented
    Oh man, you MUST sweat the details in PR. Another quick story: At one of the events I co-hosted at my previous job, we had everything ready. The food, the entertainment, the guest list. Funny thing is, I was the only one who noticed that we didn’t have any plates for the guests to use. Imagine the amount of chaos there would have been if 200 people showed up to an event with food and no plates. Goodness. So my suggestion for this is to clean your room. (Just go with me on this one.) Test yourself by seeing how long you can keep everything in the same place. You’d be surprised what little things you’ll start to notice.
  5. Public speaking
    Personally, this is the scariest part for me. The idea of speaking in front of a camera or a journalist makes my heart race. The best way to deal with this is to start by giving meaningless presentations to your family and friends. It can be about anything: the stock market, your rock collection, Justin Bieber…whatever makes you comfortable. Make sure to get feedback at the end. Also, film yourself while you make presentations, so that you can make note of your gestures or unnecessary “filler” words that you may overuse (such as “umm” and “well”). For those who are really bold, try vlogging. I just recently started my video blog (click here if you’d like to check it out), and I’m a bit nervous about it. But in time, I know my self-confidence will grow.
  6. Being flexible
    A part of living in the 21st century is knowing that technology is always evolving. Since we are in the business of communicating with others, it is very important that we know what’s trending next. When you subscribe to your favorite news organizations and stations (as I mentioned in no. 3: Staying informed), make sure to tune in to the “Technology” or “Mobile” sections. There, you will find all the information you need to know about new apps, software and products that may be of use to you.
  7. Having “thick skin”
    Honestly, I don’t like when others use this phrase. In my opinion, having “thick skin” implies that you must be cold-hearted or numb to criticism. I don’t agree. In fact, the only reason I made some much-needed changes in my life was because I took my criticism personally. Instead of thickening your skin, I would say to make sure that you instill within yourself the confidence you need to complete your job. Listen to what your peers have to say, but don’t let criticism bring you down. Have enough confidence to know that you deserve your position and what others say about you does not define who you are. Make the needed changes and move on with your life. There’s not really a formula for self-confidence, but the best way to begin is start by thinking positive. Say “I can” instead of “I can’t”. A positive attitude always leads to positive results.
  8. Being patient
    Patience is key. If you’re in the PR field already, then you know that results don’t come overnight. It takes time to gain trust from your audience and partners, so you must be patient. If you have trouble with this, try volunteering with children. I, myself, am a mentor at a local middle school. I mentor a girl for an hour each week. Trust me, you’ll have no choice but to learn patience when working with kids.

As you may have noticed, I like to think in creative ways. Sometimes, following tradition or routine gets boring. So finding new ways to reinforce your skills and participate in your community can be very rewarding. And the best part about it is: your boss doesn’t have to know why you’re doing it. Sneaky, right?

If you have any thoughts or more suggestions, please comment below. I’d love to get your input! 🙂

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