During a recent interview I was asked to identify the top attributes or skills we seek in our future employees. The easy answer is, “it depends.” But one thing is for certain – while basic public relations skills like media relations, writing, pitching and project management are absolute musts, they don’t come close to capturing the essence of the most successful PR practitioners working in agencies today.
Even so, I fumbled the answer. I heard myself default to the laundry list of PR skills we so often insert into our written job descriptions. Meanwhile, in some recess of my mind, I recognized my own disappointment in my unfolding answer and resolved to find a better one before the next interview.
Most agencies are driven by their passion for their clients and their clients’ industries, by their desire to contribute in a meaningful way to their clients’ growth, and by their pursuit of an expanding portfolio of notable clients to provide ever more challenges for the agency team. Therefore, the real answer to the question posed in the interview must lie hidden in these truths.
So far I’ve cataloged at least four personas that really power an agency, and should help employees and candidates calibrate their own agency careers:
This is the expert who has the trust of the client and the agency teams, thanks to their confident command of subject matter, campaign strategy, influencers, or client industry. They draw upon rich prior experiences to provide advice, answer questions, and guide the team’s planning process.
This person sees their primary value as a facilitator and enabler. They excel at fostering relationships between their clients and media, analysts, bloggers, and other influencers. They act as the established, trusted matchmaker, bringing value to both sides of the deal.
A single creative idea or story can return 100x the impact of 100 uninventive campaign tactics. The individual who is always challenging the team with creative ideas knows that few will ever see the light of day, but those that do will be prized by all. This person knows that people connect with great stories, not simply words or images. He/she is not just a creative thinker-storyteller but a voracious consumer of it.
What is the point of an investment in PR if it doesn’t actually have a noteworthy impact? The strategist-analyst has a finely tuned ear for clients’ actual needs and business objectives and can shape a PR campaign to achieve them. They know how the campaign integrates with other programs in the organization, like sales and marketing. They know how to measure and report the results of a campaign, to make course corrections, and to reason with clients and team members when needed.
There are no doubt a few more personas that power a successful agency. I’ll aim to catalog them in my next blog post. Meanwhile, if you have any nominations, I welcome them in a reply post.
What personas do you think have a significant impact on successful PR agencies? Leave a comment below, or tweet us at @RHStrategic with the hashtag #RHetoricBlog. We’d love to hear from fellow PR professionals and journalists alike.
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