On a recent episode of our PR Wine Down podcast, we discussed best practices to help set young PR practitioners up for success. At the end of the interview, our guest flipped the switch by putting me in the interviewee hot seat and asked what characteristics I look for when hiring someone new for the Trust Relations’ team. Here’s a preview of what I had to say!
I look for individuals that:
Have an innate ability for multitasking.
Over the years I’ve found that true PR professionals are great multitaskers. It’s the nature of our business, especially when you’re living that #agencylife and have to juggle multiple tasks across several accounts on any given day. In an entry-level or junior position, you’re likely in charge of creating media lists, transcribing meeting notes and taking the first pass at writing assignments like press releases, bylined articles or pitches. Multiply this varied workload across 5 or more client accounts, and it can be overwhelming — especially if you’re not used to jumping between projects or having to reprioritize your to-do list on the spot.
There is a sweet spot on the multitasking pendulum, when you reach a mid-level role such as an Account Supervisor or Account Manager. At this point in your PR career, you oversee some aspects of a client account, but aren’t yet fully managing them, so you may not be spread quite so thin. However, once you move up into a Director or Vice President level position, the pendulum swings back to multitasking as a critical component to your success as a PR professional. Then you are not only providing the strategy-setting processes across the client accounts you manage, but you are also in charge of managing a team of direct reports and ensuring they receive the right level of guidance to further their professional development.
Have a curious mind.
When looking for someone who is the right fit for our team, curiosity ranks high on my list of preferred personality traits. It takes a special type of individual who is constantly thirsty for knowledge and eager to learn more to thrive in PR. If you’re someone who gets bored when you don’t have something new to do or who doesn’t mind getting thrown in the deep end and improvising your way out, then PR might be for you.
Oftentimes in PR, you may be given a new client in an unfamiliar industry, and it’s up to you to research the heck out of everything you need to know to help position that client in the best way possible. This requires you to be a self-motivated learner who isn’t afraid to dig into every available resource at your disposal, whether it be industry trade publications, social media groups and forums, or even research reports specific to your client’s industry.
So read up, flex that curious mind of yours and become an expert in the space that your client is trying to break into. Curiosity is key to being a successful PR practitioner and one trait I always try to uncover when speaking with a potential new hire.
Are exceptional communicators.
There are obvious traits for being a good communicator, but less obvious ones that I look for are the abilities to 1) set boundaries and 2) manage up. Don’t be afraid to speak up when you bite off more than you can chew. It takes a good communicator to raise a flag when needed. The last thing I would want is someone on our team to get over his or her head and start dropping the ball, because they didn’t set clear expectations for what kind of workload they could handle. This can be an intimidating habit to get into, especially at a junior level position when all you want is to prove yourself worthy. But trust me, it is important to set boundaries and maintain a decent work/life balance. Otherwise, burnout can happen and work becomes a dreaded activity.
Another aspect of being a good communicator is being intuitive about different personalities, which helps you to anticipate different needs or breaking points across your teams. This is key to successful client relations, as not all clients are easy to work with and you will inevitably come in contact with all types of personalities. What may be no biggie for one client could be interpreted as an absolute firestorm for another. Read your audience and know how to effectively communicate with your clients based on their personalities and priorities.
Finally, when it comes to team communications and compatibility, I look for someone that can get along with just about anybody. This will carry you far in any business, but especially PR, since we are in a “people business” requiring you to be a good people person.