Top Five Skills to Succeed in PR

Top Five Skills to Succeed in PR

If you’re a school leaver, graduate, or even someone currently employed in a related industry and thinking of embarking on a career in public relations and media, here is my personal take on the top five skills that you need to succeed:

Skill #1: Multi-tasking

No day in PR is the same. In fact, the only constant in PR is that if you start your day off with a list of ten things to achieve, but you’ll be extremely lucky to tick off eight!

Anyone who knows me knows that I am (borderline) fanatical about my lists. I have a list of my week’s priorities; a day list; and then each day list also has a mid-afternoon rewrite of things that have crept in and needed prioritising – as well as hangover items from the morning that need to be completed. 

It’s also not simply about list management. In PR, you need to be able to mentally switch, quickly, from subject matter to subject matter. In our case at Neo PR, one minute it might be healthcare tech and the next it’s supply chains; or from retail to accounting. 

And then there’s the ability to multi-task your output. Some agencies have specialist teams: you might be a content writer, a media pitcher or a social media expert. Not here. I know it’s a cliché, but variety is the spice of life. We relish giving everyone the opportunity to get stuck into a bit of everything.

Skill #2: Knowledge and research

If multitasking makes PR sound a bit chaotic, then this next skill is the opposite. The ability to diligently undertake research and build your knowledge of a client’s product or service is key. 

Keeping up to date on market trends, your clients’ competitors, technology developments, and understanding customer needs will give you the context you need for a successful career in PR. This includes being able to talk to and write about a subject with confidence and build upon a base level of knowledge over time.

Conducting background research on your media clients is equally important. (Yes, treat journalists like clients too!) Do you know their deadline? Do they like to be contacted by email, phone or social media? And, critically, do they even take that byline you’re trying to sell in? These are all crucial to successful media relations.

Skill #3: Tenacity

That really GREAT bit of coverage or that journalist 1-1 you really want to set up, will take going the extra mile. 

I’ve had the pleasure of working with some PRs who really excelled at pitching – and when they needed to hit it out of the park, they would spend days at it, trawling social media for journo request hashtags for hours on end. Here at Neo, we did an analysis recently for one of our clients: to hit our target of two pieces of national media coverage in a quarter, the team carried out over 100 individual targeted pitches – a 5% hit rate. That’s #clientcommitment!

Skill #4: Attention to detail

Accuracy in your work is essential for a successful career in PR. The ability to tell your clients’ stories through the fast-paced and ever-evolving media demands accuracy and attention to detail. Whether it’s a 200-character Tweet or a 2,000-word white paper, it is crucial to deliver a flawless edit. It sounds obvious, but when you – and your clients – are busy multitasking (see skill #1), it can be easy for silly mistakes to creep in. This includes:

  • Typos (we’ve all been at the mercy of the autocorrect function miscorrecting something)
  • Checking figures (I once had a publication misinterpret a press release and cite my client as having a valuation of a six-figure sum rather than a six-zero-figure sum – that was a ‘drop everything and fix this moment!’)
  • Increasingly important in today’s back-link world, checking hyperlinks.

Skill #5: Relationship-building

More than a soft skill, the ability to build your professional network (both client and journalist) is important to success in PR. Your ability to build relationships will complement oral and written communication skills. 

This doesn’t have to mean every PR is an extrovert, by the way. Quite the contrary. Relationship-building is about the ability to read a person. It’s about the ability to not just listen to what they are saying, but to absorb it, take it in, and play it back. 

When it comes to client relationships, it is also really important to establish success metrics for the campaign. What does success look like for each client? What does the client want from the PR engagement? I assure you, it will be different every time. And as a PR, you need to have that front of mind with every interaction with the client. It’s the crucial ‘so what’ element.

Oh, and skill #6: Writing excellence

I know I said at the outset there were five key skills to success in PR – and, undoubtedly, every skill I have outlined above holds true. And all can, to a large extent, be learned. But it would be remiss of me to mention a career in PR without the ability to write excellently. 

Words are our artform – and for more on that, here’s a previous blog on just that topic.So, if you’re still interested in a career in the varied and never-dull world of PR, get in touch with us at

Josephine Timmins