Innovation. Ideas. Insight.

Advice For Young PR Pros

In Insight on January 30, 2009 at 9:59 am

I thought I would change things up a bit today, and instead of looking outward at a campaign or trend, I would shine the light on the PR industry. Specifically, I’d like to share some learnings from my 10+ years as a marketing communications professional. I don’t think of these as being “tips” or “tricks,” these aren’t shortcuts to success. This is advice for someone who wants a career, not just a job.

So, here are Six Suggestions To The Young PR Professional:

1. Listen

When you are starting out you want to impress your colleagues, your boss, your client and the media with your knowledge, ideas and understanding.  I get that, it’s natural. But you will learn a lot more, and be appreciated a lot more, by listening. Not just hearing, but really listening.

Listen to reporters and producers. What do they need? What are your client’s pain points? How can you help your superiors?  You can only learn the answers to those questions by listening. I’ve been in PR for more than a decade and I learn more from listening to a Junior Account Executive than I do from hearing myself talk.

2. Write

We live in a 24/7, Social Media shorthand world. But the oldest of old skool skillz, writing, is still incredibly valuable. Yes, you should use proper grammar and spellilng, but that’s not really what I’m talking about. I mean being able to articulate your point of view in a coherent, logical manner that is both persuasive and brief. That’s a skill that is appreciated and effective.

3. Give

It’s so easy to fall into a pattern of calling the media when you need them for a story. Ok, that’s business. But how are you helping them when there isn’t something in it for you? Try calling up a reporter sometime and saying, “This has nothing to do with any of my clients, but I know you write about X and thought this might be helpful.” Now repeat that five times before you ask them for something. See what happens.

4. Think

Now, more than ever, the PR profession needs thinkers. People who can come up with relevant, unexpected and compelling ideas. Not just PR ideas, but big, game changing ideas. PR pros are busy, we have a lot on our plates, but find a little time every day to think, learn, listen, read.

5. Be Positive

The PR profession can be exciting, fun and challenging – but it isn’t easy. You can work tough hours, have demanding deadlines and in reality you have  three masters – your boss at your agency, your client and the media. You are beholden to all of them, and their needs don’t always align. It’s real easy to get overwhelmed. The best way to deal with all of this? Have a positive attitude and remember, you aren’t a neurosurgeon or air traffic controller. Those people deal with real crisis. A press release with a typo is unfortunate; missing a deadline is disappointing. But you are not dealing with a crisis.

6. Be an expert

You are asked to do many things as a PR professional. Be creative, be good with clients, communicate well both verbally and on paper. You have to be a jack of all trades. But real value comes when you are a best in class expert. It could be in just about any subject. But if you know more than anybody else at your agency about a given subject, you become really valuable. Again, the question is: Do you want a job, or a career? If the answer is the latter, become an expert.


Thanks for giving me your time, I know that is the most valuable commodity you have and I appreciate you giving some to me. I’d love to talk to you and answer any questions you may have. Feel free to reach out to me at sportspr[at]yahoo[dot]com.

  1. This is a BRILLIANT post. Not only for PR people but anyone in the communication industry. Thanks for that. Even the old timers forget a lot of the basic stuff because they did it so long ago (speaking of me :)). Thanks again.

  2. Thanks Carolyn, glad you liked it. Hope you will share it with others.

  3. I think your list is right on! I’m so glad you put listening as #1 – that’s the easiest and most overlooked professional trait I’ve noticed.

    These 6 could apply to other professions as well, I think. I know the lines are blurring between PR, marketing, corp comm, etc. but they all fit for anyone going into any of those professions. Hell, besides maybe “write,” they could apply to almost anyone – which is good and another reason everyone should read eyecube 😉

  4. Thanks DJ. I’m certainly not the first, or only, person to say these things, but I thought it was worth repeating, especially as I have seen so many young PR people following my Twitter stream.

  5. Hi! I found you via tweet by Sarah Evans. This article is very helpful.

    I’m a startup entrepreneur with my husband and wearing lots of hats to help launch our new product. I’m learning as I go here and grateful for your insight. Will be following your blog and tweets.

    Thank you very much – you’re making a difference.

  6. Thanks for sharing your experience. I especially like your “tip” about being a skilled writer. While many of the old hard and fast rules are going by the wayside, what will never go away is the need for good writing. Being able to meet the needs of your boss or clients while still maintaining your own voice can be a challenge, but when it’s done right, there’s nothing better.

  7. This article was very helpful/inspiring and relevant to the kind of advice I (a young PR professional) need. Thank you for taking the time to share you’re advice Rick!


  8. Thanks for the post Rick. I’ll keep these in mind. 🙂

    I think it may even be worthwhile for you to elaborate on #1 and discuss how to listen effectively. As you said, all too often we hear but don’t listen.

  9. Rick,
    Also found you via a Sarah Evans tweet.

    This is terrific advice for people starting out in our industry. And I could not agree with you more about the value of becoming “a best in class expert…if you know more than anybody else at your agency about a given subject, you become really valuable.”

    Unfortunately, as we all know, our profession gets hammered b/c of PR folks who have a less-than-basic knowledge of the products/issues they pitch. People need to take the time to understand the deeper elements and issues at play, and respect the time of the journalists, producers, bloggers who care about them.

  10. Enjoyed this post and will be sharing it around my office.

    I often see people struggle with ‘active’ listening. You need to be listening to the point of ‘internalizing’ what your client is telling you. If you’re too busy thinking about how you’re being percieved by the client or the reporter or how to ask your next question, then you can’t possibly be absorbing the information.

  11. Excellent suggestions, particularly the point about serving as a resource for reporters. The approach to take with any journalist is, “How can I help you?”, not “please, please write about my client.”

  12. Thanks everyone for the great feedback. I’m really pleased that so many of you found it useful and took the time to post comments. I really appreciate that.

    Since several of you highlighted the item about listening, I’ll look to expand upon that in another post early next week.

  13. What great advice! Thanks, Rick. You’re right, these aren’t “tips” for a job – they’re skills to acquire and hone for a career. Very insightful and helpful.

    And thanks for keeping it concise – that makes it a lot easier for us to practice #4, Think.

  14. Great post and better yet, great advice. My sister is a Director of Corporate Marketing, having evolved from her prior years as a Director of PR and Corporate Communications. She’s a great listener, and a good mentor. I’ll forward your blog / post so she is reminded about what it takes to excel in the PR world.

    This list works for MANY professions! Be well.

  15. Some really great skills that any PR professional should work on, in order to be able to maintain a successful business and client base.

    Thanks again for all of your helpful suggestions.


  16. […] other good reads…for those interested in PR, the Eye Cube blog recently had a good list of things to look out for in molding a career…some good do’s and don’t for a checklist…the D.C. Examiner has a good list […]

  17. […] Liebling of Eyecube (@eyecube) recently wrote an article outlining his advice for young PR pros and the first (and most discussed) piece of advice is to listen.  As he puts it, “Not just […]

  18. […] 1. Six Suggestions to the Young PR Professional […]

  19. Very nice list Rick. I’m going to take it into my PR class so they can hear it from someone else.

    Thank you.


  20. I loved this article because everyone underestimates the power of networking. I think that it is great to find out what a reporter needs and try and help them. That builds great contacts and helps everyone out.

  21. Great advice, #2 is especially important – there is no substitute for strong writing and there will always be value in that.

  22. […] Advice for Young PR Pros […]

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