Five Lessons To Master For Success in PR

Screen Shot 2013-11-20 at 9.52.54 AMI recently had the privilege of delivering a guest lecture at the Gaylord College of Journalism and Mass Media at the University of Oklahoma.

I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to see how public relations is practiced all over the world by some of the best and brightest people in the business, and I’ve come to realize that the success is highly correlated with five traits. Wherever you are, whatever kind of PR you practice, here’s what you need to know:

1.  How to Listen. Most of ‘listen’ by waiting for our turn to speak again. Sometimes we can’t even wait – we just interrupt to get to the good stuff: our point of view. But it’s only by listening – really listening, or what we call ‘fearless’ listening at Ketchum – is the only way to really understand what’s being said, and why. The better we are listening, the better we are at advising. (Click to tweet)

2. How to Tell a Story. Few buzzwords are hotter now than ‘storytelling’ in the communications business, and few concepts more poorly understood. Great stories do three things: they set up a problem, they deliver a solution and they teach a lesson (click to tweet). My advice when you’re interviewing, pitching a story, or selling a proposal is to be brief, clear and the ‘enabler’ in resolving a problem, but not the main character. Leave that role for your audience to imagine for themselves.

3. How to Count. You don’t need an advanced accounting degree to succeed in PR, but you do need a few business basics: how to read a spread sheet, a cursory understanding of statistics, and an idea of how your agency / employer makes money (click to tweet). From there, you’ll also want to understand the business models of your clients or customers.

4. How to Be Social. No, you don’t have to be the life of the party, although that helps, but you must know how to be engaging in social media. There is no such thing as ‘traditional PR’ anymore; it’s all social, all the time (click to tweet). You must understand how ideas, feelings and information move from one node to others across different social networks. Experiment with different platforms. Find your own voice. And expand your influence.

5. How to Be Generous. Hardest of all – for me at least – today’s successful PR professional is profoundly generous. You must be generous with ideas, with time, energy and contacts, with real enthusiasm for solving problems and helping others succeed (click to tweet). PR is not in service to itself, but to making the world a better place. If you don’t believe this – that PR can change the world for good through economic growth, social change and personal fulfillment – you’ll be a lot less successful than if you did.

Photo credit: