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Where do you see yourself in five years? This is a question that we’ve all been asked over and over again. I remember getting frustrated every time someone asked me that. I didn’t know what career path to choose; I mean let’s face it, how can you know what you want if you haven’t experienced everything? I did know this, though: to succeed tremendously in any field, passion is the primary required ingredient. I define passion as that powerful feeling of enthusiasm that we all have inside of us driving us forward.
Luckily, I found out what my passion was after starting my first job at a public relations agency almost 10 years ago. It gave me a rush! Every day was a new day, and everything was so fast-paced that snoozing really did mean losing. Looking back and looking at the now, that motto has not changed, it’s actually become much more relevant for me.
We’re still saddled by the fact that the industries of communication and public relations (PR) are largely misunderstood by the majority of people outside of it (and even some inside of it). The lines between advertising, marketing and PR are somehow blurry. Once you really get into PR, you’ll realize that you’ve got it wrong: a PR specialist is an image-shaper and their main task is to build, maintain, and continually offer appropriate exposure for the brand (or figure), ensuring flattering publicity across various mediums available at that particular point in time. It’s not advertising, and although a lot of people still confuse these two very different exercises, it’s very important to firmly convey the two distinct activities of these professions. Consider that advertising is paying for space with controlled content, and that PR is offering publicity through earned media. This means that you influence media figures to cover relevant stories about you, your brand or an issue, so that the story has more credibility when read by the public because it was independently verified by a trusted third party rather than purchased placement. This leads us to the most important question: How can a PR practitioner succeed and stay ahead of the game in this extremely hyper-driven and saturated market?
Here are the top five “know” insights that I’ve gathered throughout my 10 years of experience that I believe played a huge role in achieving the desired outcome for the corporations and figures that I’ve worked with.
1. Know your audience
I cannot begin to explain the amount of emails and information media receive on a daily basis- the amount of people they meet, the number of calls they receive. It’s overwhelming. The last thing you want is to be that person sending a beauty editor news about the tallest building in the GCC! This is automatically a recipe for failure, and wave your credibility goodbye! Know your contact person in-depth, build a strong relationship that is not just a one-hit wonder collab. Meet them often and get to know them; get to know their work; find out their likes and dislikes, interests etc… This definitely doesn’t happen overnight, so take as much time as needed to speak their language. Work towards becoming that top of the mind kind of person that others want to get in touch with when opportunity arises. Top-notch interpersonal and communication skills are essential!
2. Know it all
Make time to stay on top of current events and up-to-date with the industry news, the competition, developments etc... Read, listen, watch- do whatever you can to become well-informed. Being a knowledgeable person automatically makes you an interesting person to speak to, broadens your web of contacts and connections, and of course will make you better at your job and much more credible. Remember that knowledge is an investment, and it pays the best interest.
3. Know what to say
I’m a strong believer in the tremendous power of words. Words give out energy and a message, acting as catalyst for a reaction in others. Your choice of words when conveying a message can either make you or break you. It’s important to know what to say, how to say it, and when to say it. Time is one factor that every person in this industry wants more of; make sure to be straight to the point when pitching or when sharing content and info. This last point ties into timeliness- disperse the relevant info at the right time. No one wants to be that person known for talking just for the sake of talking with no valuable content to impart! Do share with others, but most importantly listen to what they want.
4. Know the digital world
The ever-evolving digital world and the social media space definitely plays a huge role in building stronger relationships with others. It is a win-win tool for journalists, PR professionals, and influencers. It can be used as a social tool to simply stay in touch or to share information with others quickly. No matter what the objective is behind your interactions, it’s important to get trained on the different pervasive social platforms, use them very often, and most importantly to be active long-term.
5. Know your creative side
I refuse to start with the phrase, “Think outside the box.” I don’t believe that there’s a box to begin with; there are no limits when it comes to creativity and that’s the beauty of it. Information is constantly coming at us from all sorts of communication channels. In order to stand out and make an impact, we have to compete with that massive wave of info overload and capture people’s attention. This is where creativity plays a huge role. Coming up with impactful campaigns or ideas or stories to carry a message is an essential factor to spark that buzz and leverage awareness. It’s essential for PR professionals to up their creative game through various methods- this is where you take matter into your own hands and seek out new inspiration.
I often think back to Brian Tracy’s thoughts on PR- as one of the foremost figures in the arena, he’s a great source of know-how for us all. “Communication is a skill that you can learn. It’s like riding a bicycle or typing. If you’re willing to work at it, you can rapidly improve the quality of very part of your life.”