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What is the perfect PR personality?

31st October 2012

Are you really cut out for a career in PR? There are some people who are made for this business, and they share certain characteristics. Through her work, Jeni Beattie, director at Accolade Media Training, believes she has pinpointed what these are: “The ideal personality type for anyone working in PR is the “open” type. Based on the Five Factor Model (FFM) this sort of person is curious, inventive, positive, quick to grasp new ideas, and is also a good listener. If you don’t listen carefully, you will never find the right answers. If you aren’t creative, you won’t be able to come up with good solutions. And if you cannot grasp new ideas, such as the rapid advances in digital media, it might be better to find another career!”

Beattie says there are two further characteristics that are vital – empathy with your audience and dedication: “You need to prepare answers to the questions your audience will ask, not simply regurgitate the information that the company would like to transmit. And dedication to be analytical and to plan efficiently. If you are well-prepared, and have fantasised about your worst nightmares, there will always be a Plan B. If things go horribly wrong, there should be a smooth transition to Plan B – bringing appreciation from the CEO. Nothing is worse than the slow switch from A to J plans as demonstrated by the BBC recently over the Savile/Newsnight debacle.”

Other attributes that are key, according to Rachel Knight, account director at PR agency Maxim, are patience, tact and the ability to keep calm. She adds: “You need to be able to get on with a huge variety of people, be a great multi-tasker and be able to switch from selling in the latest product to advising a client on a potential PR disaster at the drop of a hat.”

In Knight’s view it is unlikely that one person can be brilliant at everything, so ideally, PR teams should have a good mix of personalities: “When we’re thinking about who should work with a client, it’s not just their skills that we consider but also whether the key personnel will get on together. “

Because it is so centred on communications, it is not surprising that PR tends to attract sociable people. However, Stuart Disbrey, an in-house communications manager in the energy sector, says in today‘s economic climate, PROs must be commercially minded: “I think PR still to some extent, kids itself that it's a special case 'people business' which attracts 'people people'. That may be so, but in the economic downturn I think the focus has become far less on long lunches and far more on the bottom line, particularly on the agency side.

“In the 21st century PR is a 'business business' much like any other. It has had to grow up a lot and PR practitioners who want to get on have had to grow up with it. You can be as good as you like at pressing the flesh, but if you can't make the right hard-nosed business decisions, I think your days may be numbered. Whether that will change now that we are officially out of recession remains to be seen – but I doubt it.”

What are the key character traits of a good PRO?

Samantha Howard, freelance communications consultant:

“I’d say there’s a soul role for all of us in PR. Left brain/right brain, big thinkers/happy doers. From the research and planning tacticians; to the relationships builders, the brand advocates, the cheer leaders; From the big picture thinkers, the strategists, the creatives; to the analysers, asking all the ‘what ifs’ that underscore credible crisis communication plans. You have to understand what you’re best at and find a role that lets you be it. Unless of course if you’re a freelancer than you have to be good at all of it.”

David Alexander, managing director of agency Calacus Public Relations:

“With so many varying types of PR account, from consumer to corporate, campaigning to charity, there are a range of requirements that suit most personalities. But if you’re easily disheartened by rejection or lack the initiative to find different ways of solving problems, PR may not be for you.”

Written by Daney Parker

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