Today’s Public Relations (PR) consultant is a jack of all trades.
Not only is it necessary for today’s PR consultant to know the brand backwards like a marketer, write like a journalist and execute events like an events planner, he or she has to be able to soar in the digital space like a social media guru and have the guts to move like Jagger.
In dealing with clients, more often than not, PR is about pushing a product or a service out to the media. To do that, a PR consultant would need to work closely with the clients, mostly from the marketing or communications department of the company and offer strategic advice if needed. Studying is mandatory. A brand’s key messages and unique points of differentiation distinguishing it from the competition need to be on both finger, and tongue tips. When pitching, a consultant needs to know the brand backwards, sometimes even more clearly than the client, in order to anticipate any queries or backfires. In short, you market your product to the consumers or businesses, through the mouthpiece that is the media.
With the burgeoning number of PR agencies churning an ever growing amount of press releases, media advisories and invitations, there is a danger that all that becomes spam clogging up a journalist’s electronic mail (e-mail) inbox. That said, a PR consultant has to first have the ability to string together a coherent sentence even before embarking on the arduous task of composing a piece of writing for the client. If the consultant is blessed enough to have that in the bag, he or she would have to then look at the kind of writing style befitting the client. A lifestyle account can be all colourful and exciting while a government one has to be straight to the point without being dull. A consultant who can accomplish all that, and find an angle to the release, will be the one who can spin yarn into gold and get media coverage even for the most unexciting story. To write like a journalist lets the journalist save time on what may be a time-consuming task, and the likelihood of your story being published increases.
There are event planners, and then there are PR consultants who plan and execute events. PR consultants may not have to singlehandedly plan large scale events, but smaller, media exclusive events tend to fall under their purview. When a client is interested to host the media for a get together session, a product launch or an exclusive media screening of their latest reality television show, the PR consultant has to be there every step of the way. All the nitty gritty details like venue, food and beverage, program schedule, media invitation and attendance are to be handled by the consultant. Not surprisingly, the skills involved with being a PR consultant is pretty aligned to being an events planner. Clear communications have to be made between your client and the venue, not unlike those between the client and the media. A program schedule with a timeline of the day’s activities has to be mapped out and cleared with the client. Speeches have to be ghost-written and people formally introduced.
In fact, the PR consultant who is planning the event has the additional worry of media relations. On top of all that logistical work, the consultant has to identify and invite the relevant media, worry that they may not respond to the invitation, worry that they do and not turn up after all, worry that they do show up but are unhappy with the program, worry that they are happy but not going to cover the event, worry that they do cover but there are errors in the story, etc. Therefore, a PR consultant has to have a level head going into self-planned events. Everything that could go wrong may go wrong, but smile through the pain. If the event is well planned, it will succeed.
Social Media Guru
Using the word “guru” in the lightest sense possible, a PR consultant has to have the technological chops to navigate the possibly confusing and vast world of new media, or social media. It is unimaginable how, in the past, traditional media were the kings and it was adequate to just communicate with clients and these behemoths. These days, a slew of online influencers have emerged and they are taking the digital world of PR by storm. Have a beauty product to peddle? There’s a beauty blogger with 10,000 hits a day. Have a food client to handle? Let’s arrange for a food tasting with the bloggers. After that, there’s also Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest to monitor for coverage. While these are confusing times, to have so many avenues to promote a client is the shrewd PR consultant’s dream!
Move like Jagger
Finally, just like Mick Jagger, today’s PR consultant needs to be a chameleon and be able to adapt to not just the various roles that have been pointed out, but also in all the currently unimaginable scenarios that may just become reality in the months to come. As the saying goes, “Change is the only constant” and a jack of all trades is the best candidate to navigate the ever changing tide of public relations.