I had the great privilege of hearing our firm's founder, Harold Burson, speak at Boston University in 2011, and I will never forget the pearls of wisdom that he shared with the audience.
He said that in order to find success in the world of public relations, you must 1) write well, 2) find a specialty, 3) stay well informed on world events, and 4) be a strong team player.
Working in a global economy with account teams spread across the world is difficult. By sticking with these philosophies and showing dedication, nothing can stand in your way to a satisfying and successful career.
One thing that I have found interesting thus far into my career in public relations is the fact that many of my colleagues come from extremely different backgrounds. I have colleagues that majored in political science, anthropology, and one that graduated from law school. What struck me is that no matter what you may have studied in college, in order to find success in public relations, you must write in a concise manner that communicates your clients' messages in a compelling fashion. Writing is a skill set that takes years of practice and only through patience, practice, and persistence will a writer build upon their basic writing foundation.
Finding a specialty in the world of public relations is not an easy task, especially not in today's marketplace, where clients want counsel on everything from media-placement strategy to contributed content and digital initiative launches. However, a PR professional must find their own niche to build and strengthen their reputation amongst clients and colleagues.
In today's society, staying on top of world events and news that affect your company or clients is ultimately the difference between success and failure. It's no longer acceptable to learn about a competitor's announcement days after the news is announced. PR teams have to monitor news by the minute and strategically stay ahead of the 24-7 news cycle. I reached out to Burson via email in April and he emphasized the importance of reading newspapers, magazines, books, and web sites, in order to stay well informed and provide value to our clients.
He also emphasized to me that being a strong team player is about getting along with people as part of a team. He said this means relating well to one's peers, those under one's control and, of course, managers. To me, this means that we must remind ourselves that at the end of the day we are all a part of a team and whether you are managing someone or following direction, the end goal should be making your client happy by showing your worth every day.
These pearls of wisdom have served Mr. Burson very well in his legendary career and his principles have really inspired me. Even though the public relations industry will continue to change year by year, the industry will remain a service industry, at least for agencies, and these rules of thumb will stay on the top of my mind.
Chris Blake is client executive in Burson-Marsteller's technology practice and fan experience specialty.