PR Veteran Offers Ten+ Tips for Ultimate Success in Career and Life

 David L. Shank, APR, Fellow PRSA

1. Understand the world — life exists beyond New York, London or Los Angeles, central Indiana and in some areas, it’s a very different life. Experience different people, cultures and areas.

2. Understand that there isn’t a “public”. There are hundreds of “publics” who relate to your issue or product. Each one may demand a different approach.

3. Be broad based in your education. As an employer, I am more impressed with a new graduate who has political science, psychology, history, literature and arts as a background than one who has only public relations courses.

4. Learn business and finance. Whether you work for a public relations firm, a not-for-profit or corporate, you will need to a) do budgeting, forecasts, projections, ROI, ROA or b) have to talk to fellow managers and speak their language.

5. Keep up to date on technology. Be equally attuned to RSS, blogs and Twitter and Jabber as you are with MySpace and Facebook. But remember these are only pipelines for your message.

6. Be current on contemporary trends. Be as well versed in “Mall Cop” and “American Idol” and “Fringe” as you are (should be) with Ansel Adams, Picasso and Mahler. (Watching prime-time TV in our business is not a bad thing, despite what your boss may tell you.)

7. Know the news and understand the context as it may affect you and your clients/organization. How does the Obama administration affect your organization’s interests? What impact will the financial bail-outs have on you – look beyond the obvious and see how present day issues affect every institution, even if the issue isn’t immediately obvious.

8. Be curious. Ask hard questions, THINK! Look beyond the obvious: what might be the outcomes of this “program” years down the road? What new approach would work? What regulatory roadblocks must be considered? What does history or literature tell us?

9. Know and understand media. Work in a newsroom or on a beat. Experience painful editing and unbeatable deadlines. Know how reporters, editors, writers, photographers and videographers think and work.

10. Know how to write!!! Regardless of the medium, our product is thoughts and words — the right words. Be able to put a cogent thought on paper (OK…on the screen) without adjectives, with active tense and in a format that communicates and drives action.

10+1. Have fun. Appreciate the world around you! Get to know your family and your family’s family. Find a spiritual presence that is important to you and that can support you in the bad times and the good times. Find that ethical compass that will provide you with direction when those hard personal, relationship and professional issues come up and bite you in the *^@!

10+2. Participate in life and your job. Be brave enough to speak up and share your thoughts and opinions. As an employer and a boss I want to hear from everybody and know that you can contribute intellectually as well as technically. Don’t sit on the sidelines. Turn off the X-Box and do stuff.

10+3. Be yourself, but be flexible, appreciate and learn from the learning experiences you’ll encounter…including those boring stories by you parents and your future bosses. Been there, done that, does have value.

(David Shank is President and CEO of Indianapolis-based Shank Public Relations Counselors, Inc.) 

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