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Critical qualities of a good PR practitioner

The question of who should perform PR related tasks is a challenging one to many
organisations today. This article looks at qualities for in-house and agency PR practitioners.
During my University my days, we were always told that we can not make it as PR
professionals unless we first practised print journalism. This was obviously a myth. The
argument was based on the assumption that PR was strictly for publicity. Organisations
looked at former journalists as people well equipped with media contacts. Organisations
today are not looking at PR professionals as media relations experts alone.PR is a
management function that supports all departments in a given organisation. Critical qualities
that a successful PR professional should have must be based on the deliverables.
The deliverables of a PR professional are: crisis management, event management, media
relations, communication, advocacy, public affairs, corporate social responsibility, customer
care, reputation management, branding, and media monitoring. This article is aimed at
removing a misconception that anyone can be a great PR practitioner as long as they have the
looks.
Communication specialist. This is the most important quality every PR practitioner must
have. PR practitioners must be great with both written and oral communication. Being
multilingual will be an added advantage and scores on effective communication. Media
outlets today run news in different languages. A PR person should be able to be interviewed
in Luganda and English with ease. A company message may be misrepresented by the media
house news translation team. Someone working with an International organisation must be
able to learn at least two regional languages. What if the international organisation operates in
both French and English speaking countries? You have to get someone who can have the
messages in both languages.
PR practitioners must be able to write with passion. Public Relations is for people who can
write. A PR person may spend over 50% of their time writing each day. A PR practitioner is
actually a content developer and an editor at the same time. This is not the case with
journalists. A journalist will submit their story to a sub- editor. A sub-editor also helps them
edit.A PR specialist must be able to easily embrace all communication platforms. You can not
employ someone who thinks Whatsapp is a mobile money transfer platform.PR practitioners
must know how to use offline and online media channels. In order to monitor media, one
must be able to understand how it works.
Creativity. A PR practitioner must be able to show some signs of creativity. They should be
able to come up with ground breaking ideas in order to stay ahead of competition. They must
think outside the box, strategise, and plan better. A practitioner must be creative enough to get
at least three different news angles to a campaign to attract all media. Media is difficult to
manage. Media relations is like trying to impress your Ex. It is hard to have a clear
relationship with the media. This requires someone who can always come up with creative
ideas to pitch . What worked for coverage today may not work with another media house
tomorrow. Publicity may be sheer luck if you are not creative.

Professionalism. It is advisable for a PR practitioner to have an educational background in


communication. A university degree should be the minimum requirement. Some people have
also perfected the art of PR by learning on the Job. Their passion led them to the PR
profession.PR professionalism can also be measured by professional PR related courses like
CIM that some organisation require their PR people to have. You can also measure the level
of PR professionalism by subscription to PR membership associations. Uganda has PRAU
(Public Relations Association of Uganda).
People relations. A PR person must be welcoming to all people since they are a bridge to the
organisation from the public. The interpersonal skills enable them build mutually beneficial
relationships. It must be easy for them to mix and mingle freely without reservations. PR
person must be naturally sensitive to decide on what is politically correct to say and not. This
helps them to advice and counsell management on their policies before they are rolled out.
Intelligent. This means a practitioner has both emotional and common sense .The PR person
must always think before they act not the opposite. It means that this person must also be a
researcher.PR practitioners must be intelligent enough to be accurate. Someone should not
just announce a product launch in a country called Southern Sudan. Intelligence translates
into being knowledgeable. A google search can help to correct the statement to South Sudan.
Effective PR practitioners must have a critical eye. Practitioners must be able to pay attention
to detail.PR practitioners must be able to identify that a service provider has interchanged or
missed brand colours. As an organisational diagnosis specialists; they must continually
identify organisational weaknesses and find solutions. An application letter can tell you a lot
about someone who does not respect standards.
Staying attitude. PR practitioners must be tough people who do not just give up. Practitioners
must always be on standby to perform their tasks twenty four hours a day. A PR crisis can
happen any time.PR person should be able to issue a statement in the night when called upon.
They must be able to go beyond the bare minimum. PR practitioners should be the kind of
people who can jump on a boda boda to pick something on last minute. Great practitioners
must be the type that takes long to get annoyed.
PR practitioners must exhibit management abilities. They must be able to engage in decision
making and planning at all levels within the organisation.PR is a new profession on the
African continent that needs more awareness. Gender and age of a PR practitioner should not
be a centre of focus by any recruiter. It is a myth to think that women are better with media
relations than men. This is worsened by a cultural belief that men are more hardworking
women.
Ivan N Baliboola
PR and Organisation diagnosis specialist.
nbaliboola@gmail.com