Perspectives: How to become a successful PR consultant in 2024

Perspectives: How to become a successful PR consultant in 2024

'Perspectives' is a Telum Media submitted article series, where diverse viewpoints spark thought-provoking conversations about the role of PR and communications in today's world. This Perspectives piece was submitted by Amber Daines, Chief Communicator at Bespoke Co.

A fair bit has changed since I kick-started my first sole trader PR consultancy in 2007 - not least of all the rise of social media driving much of the 24/7 news agenda, and making strategic communications a much more integrated and far-reaching practice. It has also become harder to have consistent, long-term results for some clients in areas such as earned media, which has shrunk its footprint considerably over the years.

What has not changed is the need for a creative, experienced, human-centred approach to each campaign, supported by lots of time-saving tech tools, devices, and applications, that make the business-as-usual stuff so much faster and streamlined. There are ways we can always improve and feedback remains key in all our client engagements. As a result, some clients have been working with us for over a decade.

Here are my 11 key insights for anyone wanting to succeed as a PR consultant in the year(s) ahead:

Always keep learning
  • Gain a solid understanding of public relations principles and practices - go work for a big agency and smaller ones to get a sense of the PR consultancy landscape. First up, I did a journalism degree in communications and some units in public relations, which helped me understand the basics. I then worked as a business reporter in Australia and overseas for a decade before sliding into PR land. On-the-job learning is the way to fast track your career, and nothing is better than building your expertise and ensuring you can thrive in the long term. Find mentors and key advisors who can build your skills, keep you growing as a consultant, and open doors. Platforms like TikTok and LinkedIn are great, but not everything!
  • Stay updated on industry trends and best practices through workshops, courses, and relevant certifications. In my career, I have done four university degrees in areas such as sustainability and fine arts management, and always think learning new things is more about mindset versus skillset!
Build the basics and keep them evolving
  • Develop excellent communication skills, both written and verbal. PR consultants need to convey messages effectively to various audiences, and relying on AI tools won’t cut it.
  • Hone your writing skills for press releases, media pitches, webinar talks, event speeches, and other PR materials.
  • Learn to be a great speaker. It will always be a marketplace differentiator for those who shy away from it.
Clever networking
  • Build a strong, multi-generational and cross-sector professional network. Attend online and in-person industry events, conferences, and seminars to connect with other professionals in your field and invite those to yours too.
  • Use social media platforms to engage with professionals and join relevant groups.
Look to specialise
  • Consider specialising in a specific industry or type of PR, for example, crisis management, media relations, or corporate communications. Specialisation can make you more valuable and sought after. It can also make your career more meaningful if you do work you truly enjoy and can soar at.
Nurture media relationships
  • Cultivate two-way relationships with journalists, editors, and other media professionals. Having a strong media network can enhance your ability to get coverage for your clients in good times and bad.
  • Think of the media as a stakeholder and always remember they are not a publishing tool for your clients. Be open to their ideas and learn to work with them to raise awareness and create excellent journalism.
Digital skills
  • Stay updated on digital PR strategies and social media trends. Digital platforms play a significant role in modern PR, so understanding how to leverage them is crucial.
Client management
  • Learn how to effectively manage client relationships. Understand their goals, expectations, and industry nuances.
  • Develop a client-centric approach and focus on delivering results - KPIs matter.
Problem-solving and crisis management
  • Develop strong problem-solving skills, as PR consultants often deal with challenging situations and crises.
  • Be prepared to handle crises effectively and maintain a positive public image for your clients.
Be agile
  • PR is a dynamic field, so it's essential to stay informed about current events, industry changes, and new communication technologies.
  • Be adaptable and open to learning new skills to stay competitive in the evolving PR landscape.
Ethical practices
  • Uphold high and professional standards in your work - from initial calls to regular emails or large presentations. Trust is crucial in PR, and ethical behaviour is fundamental to building and maintaining trust with clients and future partners. The industry is too small and referral-based to be anything less than ethical.
Entrepreneurial mindset
  • Approach your consulting career with an entrepreneurial mindset. Be proactive, seek opportunities and constantly look for ways to add value to your clients.

Lasting success in PR often comes from a combination of skills, experience and a strong professional network. Continuously invest in your professional development and be adaptable to the changing landscape of public relations - we can never rest on past success. And finally, enjoy the consultancy ride.

Backed by over 25 years' experience, Amber leads a team of five consultants in-house, as well as some external experts at Bespoke Co., servicing clients from financial services firms to cryptocurrency disruptors and industry associations. She has previously worked as a business TV and newspaper journalist, PR consultant, media trainer, and presentation skills coach.

These days, Amber is focused on media training, crisis PR, reputation management, and podcasting. Since 2017, she has hosted and produced her own podcast, The Politics of Everything, which has enjoyed five million downloads through organic audience growth and led to creating an online course to help podcasters launch and scale their shows.

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