Answering Three Questions from Young Public Relations Professionals
Last week, Argyle Communications’ Toronto office was honoured to be one of four workplaces to receive a visit from a large group of public relations students as part of the Canadian Public Relations Society’s Passport to PR program.
In covering the event, Marketing Magazine asked me to answer three questions commonly asked by aspiring public relations professionals.
What’s the best advice you have for graduating PR students?
You need great communication skills, but that’s just the start. Success in PR is about having a view of the entire organization and its environment. Work on your business literacy because no matter where you work, or who your client is, you have to understand their business.
Be relentlessly curious about the world. You’ll need that to help your organization or client understand risks and seize opportunities, and to build stronger relationships with your publics. Always think critically – but never think cynically. Be aware of popular culture, but don’t take it too seriously. That will always keep you a step ahead.
Be ethical. Don’t let anyone tell you PR is about spin or distortion, which demeans you, your peers and your profession. Finally, don’t ever use the term ‘personal brand.’ It’s something everyone needs, but no one should ever talk about.
What are the pros and cons of working in a PR agency vs. in-house?
As a consultant in an agency, your experience will tend to be broad – working with a variety of clients over time. It’s great for those who thrive on variety. As an in-house professional, your experience will tend to be deep, as you will really get to know one organization intimately.
The pros and cons depend on you. Great consultants thrive on diversity, variety and change; they love working for a business whose core business is public relations, and trying to stay on the cutting edge of communication. However, the odds of your days being unpredictable are high because you have many different clients depending on you. And some people find it challenging to account for how they use their time every day – which is key to demonstrating value for the client.
The most important thing is choosing the organization well: if it’s an agency, are they ethical and fair? Do they value learning and joy as much as they value hard work? If it’s an in-house opportunity, does the organization truly value communication? Will they invest in their relationships with their publics – and therefore in their PR team?
What is the one thing every PR student should know about the industry?
Public relations is changing – forever, and for the better. The days of PR being mainly about media relations are over; today, the key is thinking broadly and deeply about how to build relationships with publics – not just through communication, but also through action – and measuring change in attitudes and behaviour over time.
A couple of years ago, the Global Alliance for Public Relations and Communication Management led a global dialogue among PR professionals and academics, and identified three emerging roles of modern PR: the definition of an organization’s character and values; the building of cultures of listening and engagement; and understanding and acting upon professional and organizational responsibility to stakeholders, and to society.
Those who see PR through the old lens of “message control” won’t do well in the years ahead. But those who focus on PR as a means of ethical influence – and have the skills to earn it – will both survive and thrive.
About the Author:
Daniel Tisch is the President and CEO for Argyle Public Relationships. He is one of Canada’s best-known communicators, having worked at senior levels in government before embarking on a 20-year consulting career in which he has advised CEOs, boards, government leaders and marketers for some of the world’s biggest brands.