What are the top ten management skills in PR?
Date: 03 October 2012 12:18
During our research for this feature, PRmoment identified ten must-have qualities of a PR leader. A perfect manager:
1. Understands the whole business, not just the communications function.
2. Has experience of working outside of PR if they work for a multinational.
3. Has training in key areas, from finance to research, and ensures their team has up-to-date skills too.
4. Makes evaluation a priority and uses appropriate research tools.
5. Is fanatical about detail.
6. Reacts quickly and appropriately in a crisis.
7. Has good rapport with people, inside and outside the organisation – clients, journalists and contacts.
8. Can generate great content, and draw it from others.
9. Is never afraid to say “no” to clients, the media or colleagues.
10. Shares their knowledge and expertise to allow their teams to grow.
Looking at the first points, Professor of PR at Bournemouth University, Tom Watson says that in a recent study of future top communicators for the Institute for Public Relations in the US, results came under three headings: practice; training and education; and proof of performance. Discussing practice, Watson says: “PR managers must link communication strategy to business strategy; They should understand the whole business environment, not just media and communication. Operational (non-communications) experience is necessary for credibility in multinationals, they must speak the language of the business.”
In terms of training, Watson says key subjects are business strategy, financial literacy, economics, public affairs and public diplomacy, and relationship management, while adding that “stronger focus is needed on research and business analysis skills.”. Watson is also keen to emphasise the importance of evaluation: “The ability to interpret and apply the most appropriate research methods is more important than technical measurement skills; Evaluation frameworks need to be developed for judgement on organisational impact, not clip measurement.”
For PRCA chief executive Francis Ingham they key qualities of a good PR manager are having an eye for detail and the ability to act quickly, calmly and appropriately: “I expect a lot from my PRCA PR and communications manager. They’re doing PR for the PR industry, so at the bare minimum they must be exacting with details, react quickly to reputational threats and opportunities, and not overthink things. I can’t have someone say they like option A one day, option C the next, then back to option A the following day.”
Ingham also stresses the benefits of being a good delegator and communicator: “The manager of a busy PR desk must know how to delegate work. Therefore they must have good rapport with their assistants, and also have the relevant channels with journalists, to ensure time and work has an end result. Finally, everyone knows bad stories happen. Have a few key lines to ensure that you’re always on message, and know how to react when things get a bit choppy. I look for a calm head, a hard-working attitude, and a propensity not to literally bang one’s head against the desk if something doesn’t go your way (not naming names).”
What makes a great PR manager?
Pat Nelson and Kate Burns, managing partners at commercial management firm Accelerate Worldwide, give their respective opinions:
“Organisations cannot always guarantee a constant flow of news and while it’s not always easy, a great PR manager is creative enough to find a story. They refuse to operate in a silo and draw upon the entire marketing mix to help them consistently generate newsworthy content – utilising a diverse range of communications tools.”
“A great PR manager will also have the confidence to challenge and advise their colleagues and clients when they are wrong. A good PR manager will nurture ideas, engage and educate, but will have the strength to say ‘no’ when it counts.”
Juliet Bernard, owner of agency Bluebear PR:
“One of the most valuable lessons I learned from pretty much my first job is don’t feel threatened by the people in your team. If you train them properly and generously share your knowledge with them, they will free you up for your next challenge. When someone leaves to go to another job see them as an ambassador for your good practise not as a traitor.”
Written by Daney Parker