“In brief, our plan is frankly, and openly, on behalf of business concerns and public institutions, to supply the press and public of the United States prompt and accurate information concerning subjects which it is of value and interest to the public to know about.” (Lee, 1906)
The trajectory of a career in Public Relations intersects with a great number of disciplines, but always ends up back at one common junction; the client. Throughout my own relatively short stint as a PR professional, I’ve had to prioritize different skills with each new position. In my very first PR position as an intern for Couture Fashion Week NY, my job consisted largely of face-to-face networking, trade shows, and event organization, which quickly shifted as I would move on to work for Social Bliss, a fashion social media start-up with a larger emphasis on community development and interaction than traditional PR. Now, as a member of the Text100 team, I find myself doing a lot more traditional PR activity, while still cultivating the skills I used in previous positions, albeit with different tools.
The constants in the formula for a PR pro are a core set of capabilities that haven’t changed since the inception of the field – a topic that is still highly debated – and the first PR agency, The Publicity Bureau, was formed in 1900. The ability to identify and analyze targets is likely one of the most influential pieces of the equation, because knowing one’s audience is the crux of any PR plan, successful or mediocre. It’s something that I have been conditioned to constantly remind myself of when attempting to communicate with a group or an individual. It’s the difference between asking a newborn how his day went and expecting the same result as a conversation with an adult; one is clearly more effective.
“This is not an advertising agency. If you think any of our matter ought properly to go to your business office, do not use it.” (Lee, 1906)
Once the audience has been established, the primary concern is reaching them. This is the point where the job description becomes more amorphous. It’s here where one has to be willing to go above and beyond to capture that target segment of the population. In recent years, PR has evolved from being about creating a single consistent message, to actually sharing highly personalized content with the people you’re trying to start a conversation with and having that conversation in real-time. The level of engagement today is unprecedented; PR professionals are expected to adapt an entirely new skill set to be able to handle communications over these channels, not to mention being able to report on the robust analytics we can glean and make them actionable.
The most consistent and undisputed ability that every PR professional must have – since literacy became the norm – is the ability to write and write well. In every job description I’ve ever read, this one necessity has never been left out or under-emphasized. It is paramount, because all of the skills described above – and still more that could fill innumerable volumes – would be rendered useless. Without the honed ability to communicate both verbally and in writing, a PR pro is as good as a three-legged dog in a horse race.
For the complete text of Ivy Lee’s Declaration of Principles, visit here, or please see:
1Lee, Ivy (September, 1906). An Awakening in Wall Street: How the Trusts, after Years of Silence, now speak through authorized and acknowledged Press Agents. The American Magazine, vol. 62, pp. 457-63.