5 Transferable PR Skills You (Probably) Already Have

In college, I read a quote that remains with me to this day: “You already have everything you need to get everything you want in life.” This mantra is especially relevant to new PR professionals. Whether you’re new to the workforce in general or facing a career switch, you likely have the foundational skills to become successful in a public relations career. Keep in mind that public relations professionals come from a variety of undergraduate majors and career backgrounds. Broad disciplines like English, marketing, communications and business equip prospective public relations pros with a strong repertoire of transferable skills to earn a place in the field.

The five transferable skills you can leverage to land your first public relations job or continue building your career are as follows:

1. Writing

Versatile writing ability is invaluable as a new pro. Whether you need to craft a press release or pitch your client’s latest and greatest product, writing ranks at the top of public relations must-have aptitudes. If you can write well, you can own the world.

2. Relationship-Building

Success in this industry relies on networking and cultivating long-term relationships with an array of constituencies: members of the media, clients, prospects, colleagues, partner agencies, other internal teams and referral sources. You never know who’s listening, and you never know who can help you find your next lead. If you’re hot on the job search trail, attend PRSA Chapter events to meet and greet local pros. Be authentic. More importantly, be a good listener. When networking, don’t try to get as many business cards as possible. Focus on the quality of interactions rather than the quantity. Do your best to take mental notes about people you meet and jot them down in your phone after you leave the event. If you had one or two meaningful conversations, re-introduce yourself on LinkedIn. Personalize the interaction with a reminder about who you are and where you met. You never know where those connections may lead.

3. News Junkie Status

Attention to current events and news media is imperative in public relations. If you already follow relevant trends and stories in your industry, you’re ahead of the curve. Use your “news junkie status” to demonstrate your knowledge as you build relationships. Keep track of stories that pertain to your job, to the job you want or to your clients. Knowing what’s hot in your industry will help people remember you and even earn you recognition as the in-house current events guru.

4. Sales & Negotiation

You may not realize it, but you use negotiation skills on a daily basis. You bargain or compromise with your partner, roommate, friends and family about where to go to dinner, how to delegate household chores or ways to get what you want. Maybe you worked in customer service at some point. These experiences involve sales and negotiating, which are valuable in any field but especially in public relations. In order to build relationships, win clients and pitch the media, you must sell a brand story. At every turn in public relations, you will negotiate to get what you want. Take advantage of easy opportunities to sell your ideas during your daily routine. Even better, get your hands on The Negotiation Phrasebook by Angelique Pinet to really round out those skills.

5. Project Management

Think back to times when you collaborated on a team project. In order to succeed, you demonstrated follow-through, organization and attention to detail. You balanced several tasks simultaneously and took your project over the finish line by a certain date. In the same way, success in public relations hinges on the ability to create and implement strategy and often, to do so on short notice. Experience collaborating on teams and executing tasks independently will serve you well as a new pro.

What other transferable skills should new PR pros highlight during their job search? If you’re already churning it out in a full-time position, which skills did you use to get a foot in the door?


 Jamie M. Curtis is a writer and publicist. In 2013, she launched WHITE HORIZON PR, a boutique agency focused on public relations and content strategy for emerging brands. Currently, she is building a portfolio of fashion, beauty, and lifestyle clients across the U.S. WHITE HORIZON PR serves many clients virtually and has locations in Beverly Hills, CA and Columbus, OH.

PRSA Workshop Recap: Putting More Power & Precision in Your PR Writing

I recently attended my first in-person PRSA workshop, titled “Putting More Power and Precision in your PR Writing.”

Attending the workshop were about 30 young and mid-career PR professionals with a sprinkling of more experienced pros seeking a refresher on writing basics (and one of the best views in Washington at HagerSharp, just blocks from the White House).

A few common writing challenges emerged from the workshop:

1)     Switching gears among multiple functions: Many of us struggle with creating a distinct tone and style when writing for different document types and audiences (e.g. news releases, social media content, pitches, technical reports, etc.). We also have to work to maintain the right balance of time spent on background research, cultivating leads, engaging with experts on the content we’ll be publicizing and then the actual writing process.

2)     Writing tight copy: We all know that readers prefer crisp copy, but how do we get to concise without erring towards choppy? For creative types, it can be a painful exercise to cut out jargon, flowery language and complex sentence structures – but for the reader’s benefit, it is absolutely essential to distill your communications to their clearest, simplest form.

3)     Letting go of personal preferences and ego when writing for others: Writing feels very personal and it can be tough to accept edits, or worse, to adopt a style that doesn’t feel our own. We need to keep in mind that it’s paramount to capture the voice of the organization or brand we are representing, and we must adapt our personal style accordingly.

4)     Working under external constraints: Many of us feel challenged to produce quality PR products when faced with limited control over corporate fonts, formats and colors, let alone the inclusion of dry legalese or too-long boiler plate language. Likewise, it’s tough to do our best writing in a workplace that doesn’t place a premium on quiet time and privacy for creative effort, time at the end of production to proof, or flexibility to write at the best time of day for you. Where possible, take the initiative to talk to your manager about creating the best possible environment that will ultimately result in optimal PR writing for the organization.

The highlight of the workshop came from the packet of 30 real-world writing samples provided, as each participant was asked to share a work product with the group. It is impossible to underestimate how much you can learn from having your PR work critiqued by a group of peers and likewise from participating in critiquing their own work.

The biggest value for my money came from the contacts I made who are doing similar work at related organizations. Though we didn’t resolve all of these challenges, knowing that I have a new peer group that shares my day-to-day reality gives me more confidence and determination to continue perfecting my writing.

Anne Berlin does advocacy communications and research and science policy blogging for the Association of American Medical Colleges. She is a member of the PRSA National Capital Chapter and an aspiring Toastmaster. 

Crisis PR: A Winning Decision

Crises have never been as transparent and ubiquitous as in this millennium. It requires a skilled person to manage information during a crisis, as well as to predict and plan for a future one. Within three months of my internship with The Sheldon Concert Hall & Art Galleries located in St. Louis, I created a crisis communications plan that has since been implemented throughout the organization.

If you find yourself working for an organization that does not yet have a crisis communication plan in place, consider being the person who develops one. Doing so is a definite challenge, but it brings with it several specific rewards – such as

  • Gain access to people at all levels and functions within the organization.

When I was tasked with developing this plan,  I began by generating a list of potential threats. I formed this list by talking to everyone throughout the organization, which was a great excuse to formally meet all the staff and interact with them on a personal level. From the janitor to the CEO, each will have a unique perspective and invaluable input that can change the course of a company in crisis.

  • Put yourself in a role that lets you educate employees and advance the company’s best interests.

One of the biggest challenges faced by public relations professionals is validating our projects and efforts. This is as true as ever in crisis communications (at least, until a crisis happens); employees may not understand why a crisis communication plan is important, and this will be your first hurdle in creating one that’s effective. You must be able to explain three things: why communication is important, the difference between the court of law and the court of public opinion, and how having a solid crisis communication plan in place will affect an organization’s bottom line. Once you get everyone on the same page, you’ll be in a position to move the company forward and gain genuine respect.

  • Be a change agent who strengthens the organization in a visible and concrete way.

No one wants to admit that there are weaknesses in their organization, and they most certainly do not want to discuss them. However, weaknesses exist in every organization and cannot be ignored. Talking to colleagues throughout the organization showed me that most had never thought about that “worst case scenario” in their respective functions. They expressed concern because there were potential incidents that they felt unprepared to handle. These are the things you must uncover and address in your plan, in order to strengthen the organization in a real and effective way that’s felt by employees at all levels and in all areas.

  • Learn to plan ahead and gain a crisis-ready mindset.

Crisis happens quickly and never as anticipated. When writing a crisis plan, you have a unique opportunity to visualize what the day of a crisis will be like. What are you most likely to overlook? What do you need to do so you gain a comfortable level of control? What will be the most stressful part of a specific crisis? What will be your first reaction? These questions are just the start of what it takes to really focus in on a crisis situation. Without ever being in a crisis, writing a plan and practicing it is the closest you will ever be to the real thing.

  • Add a unique and desirable skill set to your resume.

Get those hands dirty! While this tip may be worn out, it is something worth repeating. You have to make sure to challenge yourself during your internships and jobs. It teaches you a great deal about yourself and especially about your capabilities. Building a crisis communication plan will help you to develop a skill set that not everyone in public relations has, and it will teach you things that will undoubtedly come in handy down the road.

No matter the reason for your interest in crisis communication, remember that you have chosen one of the most intense aspects of our profession.  Do not be nervous; embrace the challenge and make the most out of it. Accepting this challenge gave me irreplaceable experience and helped me become invaluable to my organization. Next challenge, please!

Robert Fischer was adopted from Guatemala, raised in St. Louis and now resides in Los Angeles.  With a passion for localized talent, he graduated with a degree in public relations at the University of Central Missouri.  He works in the music industry, representing local bands, and hopes to expand to entertainment and fashion clients. Find out more about Robert by visiting http://simplyemerge.com.

Budgeting your PR Paycheck

We all heard it in college: Save your money, save your money, please, I’m begging you, save your money.

But, if you were like me, you probably laughed a little inside your head and thought, “Ha! What money? I don’t have any money.”

However, now that you’re a new professional, you might be thinking “Ohhhh . . . that money.” There’s nothing like that feeling of getting your first paycheck. Just think of all the stuff you could do! And the things you could buy! However, those people in college were right. You really need to save your money.

Saving is so much easier than it seems, I promise. When you set up your direct paycheck deposit with your employer, did you have some deferred to a savings account? If you did, then look at you! You’re saving already! Electing this option is great because it requires no effort on your part. The effort only comes in creating a budget, which seems so daunting at first, but once explained, is going to be your lifesaver (and your money-saver).

One of my communications professors actually brought a financial advisor into our class senior year to explain a budget, and I remember he had this to share about a monthly budget:

1. Pay yourself first. Period. 10 to 20 percent a month should be budgeted for savings.

2. Your rent should take up no more than 35 percent of your budget. If it is more than this, you cannot afford your living space. (Get a roommate and cut that rent in half!)

3. Car and insurance should account for 25 percent of your budget.

4. Those utility bills that won’t stop coming in the mail? Utilities should be 5 to 15 percent of your budget.

5. Student loans are a huge expense for some recent graduates. They should account for about 33 percent of your monthly budget.

6. Food is necessary, obviously, and now that you’re out of college you can possibly eat more than Ramen, cereal and Little Caesars $5 Hot and Ready. But don’t spend more than 10-15 percent of your monthly income. (A little tidbit of my own: I find that I spend more at the store the more often I go. Granted, I love to cook, so I also love planning meals, but if you can plan for two-weeks-worth of dinner at a time, then you only need to visit the store twice a month, and this will save you a ton. Trust me.)

7. Finally, we all need some sort of release. All work and no play makes for a miserable life. But entertainment is costly, and should be planned for 15 percent or less of your budget.

Now, you might be saying to yourself, “Is this girl sure she graduated from college … because that adds up to more than 100 percent …” but I know that, don’t worry! These percentages leave room for fluctuation in your monthly spending.

Lastly, ask about dumping some money into an IRA while you’re at it. I’m all about storing away some funds and watching them grow, and they will do just that in an IRA account.


LindseyHobbsLindsey Hobbs is an online marketing strategist at Champion Real Estate Services, a large corporate real estate company in Columbus, Ohio. She is a 2013 graduate of Otterbein University in Westerville, Ohio in journalism and public relations and is a proud past PRSSA president and current member of Central Ohio PRSA. She blogs at the614project.com and can be found on Twitter at @hobbsie11 and lindseyhobbs@gmail.com

A New Competitive Advantage: Mentorships

Public relations is a field in which classroom knowledge can only take you so far and internships show you various aspects of the day-to-day grind at an agency or corporation. However, a mentor is what gives a new professional a competitive advantage in the industry.

Mentoring goes far beyond asking advice on how to write the perfect press release or pitch a reporter, but rather focuses on how to develop your career as a public relations professional and how to succeed in the industry.

When selecting a mentor, do not treat the relationship as an employment agency or your mentor as an HR advisor, but instead look at your mentor as a wise adviser who can offer valuable advice on decision-making, workplace politics, challenging situations and overall career guidance based on their own experiences.
Below are several tips for new professionals as they consider the importance of mentoring and how a mentor can be their competitive advantage.

Work-Life Integration
It’s no secret that a 9-to-5 schedule seldom exists in the PR world, but there are times when a new professional needs to unplug, unwind and have a life outside of work. When selecting a mentor, it is not a bad idea to choose a mentor who has mastered the balance of work-life integration. If you decide once your career is established that you would like to make life changes like get married or balance a family and a career, a mentor who has a similar experience is an invaluable asset.

Advancing Your Career
Mentoring is a vital resource for professional development. Having a mentor can help you define an effective strategy to help you stand out within your company. The industry has changed drastically with the rise of digital and social media, so finding a mentor who isn’t far removed from your experiences can provide solid career guidance in the context of the current PR landscape.

Birds of a Feather
In addition to finding someone you can emulate in your career, also make sure to look for someone with a similar or complementary personality and work style. You’ll click well with someone if you share hobbies and interests as well as overall professional goals, and this will help you establish a good relationship. You also want to seek a mentor you trust and know will keep things confidential. If you’re having a rough week and need to vent, it helps to have a mentor who will respectfully keep it between the two of you.


Time, Time, Time
As young professionals seek out advice, the key is time. Give yourself time to foster the relationship with your mentor. Good relationships don’t happen overnight. They take precious time to cultivate trust and respect. Respect their time as well, as most people don’t even have enough hours in the day to do everything they’d like.

Interested in starting a mentoring program in your local chapter? Or want to learn more about mentoring in PR? Check out the New Pros website (http://www.prsa.org/Network/Communities/NewProfessionals/) for key resources and materials to spread the word.

Brandi Boatner and Kate Enos are the PRSA New Professionals Section mentorship chairs.