How to Be Successful in PRLast week, we hosted #PRStudChat, our monthly Twitter chat aimed toward students (not studs, as Mike Connell likes to point out).

Julia McCoy was the guest host and they discussed the types of things students should consider as they approach their career in PR.

As I read through the recap article in preparation for publication (it publishes tomorrow), it occurred to me that the advice isn’t just for students.

To be successful in PR, there are five things you should always do—no matter your level of expertise.

Be Successful in PR with These Five Things

They are:

  1. Always be curious
  2. Read lots—and different genres
  3. Write every day
  4. Commit to lifelong learning
  5. Make sure you network

Let’s take a look at each of them—and discuss why they’re important.

Be Curious

I love to tell the story about when I started my career, my job was to make copies of the media placement clip books.

In color.

It wasn’t THAT long ago, but back then, the color copiers took something like four minutes per page (it was horribly painful).

They would print pink. Then blue. Then yellow. And then black.

It took fooooorever.

And I had to change the toner at least twice every time I worked on this project (so I could have also been a copy repairperson).

While I stood there, waiting for each page to copy, I didn’t have anything to do, other than stare into space.

So I read the articles as they printed.

I didn’t even realize doing that would help my career. I truly was just passing time.

About six months in, I was sitting in on a meeting and the client asked a question that none of the more senior professionals could answer.

I shyly raised my hand (I was VERY shy back then) and answered it.

The team looked at me, shocked. I wasn’t the one who had pitched the media or placed the stories. They didn’t even know I could talk (very shy).

But I could read. And I read every last one of them—and knew every word that every journalist had written about the client.

It earned me a promotion and I never again had to stand at the color copier for days.

Read a Ton

Stephen King famously said:

If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.

And, as it turns out, to be successful in PR, you have to be an excellent writer.

The only way to become excellent is to read and write. It’s one of those things that requires practice.

One of my very favorite questions to ask during interviews is, “What are you reading right now?”

You’d be shocked at how many people say, “I don’t have time to read because I am so dedicated to my job.”

I think they must think that’s the right answer, but it couldn’t be more wrong.

The more you read—and the more you read a lot of different things— the better writer you become.

And the better writer you become, well, see below.

Write More

It’s no surprise content has taken over the world.

A few years ago, my dad said, “I’m surprised you decided to start and grow a business. I always thought you’d write.”

What he doesn’t realize is how much writing I do every day.

Some of it is because it’s what I love, but some of it is because of where our industry is going.

If you’re aren’t consistently writing (as in, daily), you won’t know how to write compelling, informational, and valuable content for your customers.

In fact, you’ll have no idea what they want because you’re not getting consistent feedback through your content.

To be successful in PR, you have to hone your writing skills. It’s not a nice-to-have.

We are communicators and we have to know how to reach people through text, audio, and video.

You cannot do any of that without being an excellent writer.

Continue Your Education

Last week, Wendy Glavin published an article on Spin Sucks about the importance of lifelong learning.

And it’s never been easier than it is today.

You no longer have to quit your job and go back to school if you want to continue your education.

Au contraire!

Today, you have Lynda, Coursera, Skillshare, Masterclass (which I adore), to name a few.

On Spin Sucks, alone, you have the Modern Blogging Masterclass, the Content Secret to Closing More Clients, and the PR Dream Team.

There is no reason you can’t continue your education in today’s world.

Your competition is doing it, so if you want to be successful in PR, you also have to hone your skills and learn new ones.

There are plenty of opportunities for you to do so.

Network and Get Involved

At some point in your career, particularly if you’re on the agency side, a boss will tell you part of your career growth includes business development.

As communicators, we are not trained salespeople.

Networking is what will save you.

Suddenly the people you consider friends because you serve on boards with them (get involved with PRSA or IABC, stat!) will become your biggest allies in referring you new business.

There also is a gigantic opportunity in front of us today to use content to generate inbound leads.

The Communicator’s Playbook teaches you how to do that (and our masterclass goes further in-depth on it).

Between networking and content marketing, your pipeline should be bursting at the seams.

And you won’t have had to “sell” anything or anyone.

But Wait! There’s More!

This certainly isn’t a complete list on how to be successful in PR.

I could add:

  • Do lots of research
  • Commit to understanding how a business makes money
  • Track your results to an organization’s goals
  • Make friends in other departments so you can figure out how their job affects what you do
  • Ask to job trade with a colleague
  • Use social media for yourself so you understand the nuances of it from a business perspective
  • Write a book
  • Focus

What would you add to a list about how to be successful in PR?

Gini Dietrich

Gini Dietrich is the founder, CEO, and author of Spin Sucks, host of the Spin Sucks podcast, and author of Spin Sucks (the book). She is the creator of the PESO Model and has crafted a certification for it in partnership with Syracuse University. She has run and grown an agency for the past 15 years. She is co-author of Marketing in the Round, co-host of Inside PR, and co-host of The Agency Leadership podcast.

View all posts by Gini Dietrich