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The field of Public Relations is not for the faint of heart. Whether you represent a person, a startup, a large corporation, or the President of the United States, the job of a PR agent is to help the clients navigate life in the public eye, including writing and disseminating press releases, responding to industry news, and controlling damage after a particularly bad incident. It’s a high-intensity position, and although it’s a very inexact science, it’s high-pressure and high-stakes. Those who rise to the highest levels of the field all attribute their success to the following crucial traits. 

Awareness and Relevance | Public Relations maneuvers don’t exist in vacuums, and the means of dissemination change in the blink of an eye. The best agents are keenly attuned to how national news, economic prospects, racial tensions, natural disasters, and other circumstances impact how their work will be received by the general public. Excellent PR agents have their fingers on the pulse of what’s going on across a swath of social media platforms, political leanings, and age demographics so they can anticipate the best medium and timing for their work to go live.

Attention to Detail | In a post-Watergate world, researchers, journalists, and nosy paparazzi will take any hint of a lede or misstep and unravel months of work and reputation building. The creme of the crop of PR professionals knows exactly how to cover her bases and ensure that only the story she is pushing is the one that the evidence and sources support. Every wording choice and cited fact has to be air-tight, lest misinformation or an apparent lie make the situation even worse. The devil is truly in the details in the field of public relations.

Writing and Storytelling | These two skills are the true heart of a career in Public Relations. It’s the job of this person to mold the narrative of a certain issue or incident in the minds of the public. From outlining a narrative arc to achieving the optimal tonality in a public address, PR people must exhibit top-tier command of the English language in all its power and quirks. The message must be clear and compelling, yet still favorable to the clients’ desired outcome.

Honesty | PR agents are held accountable to two different groups of people — their clients, and the public. On the client side, PR agents must be able to speak optimistically yet sincerely about the gravity of a situation and his or her own ability to control the public image, reaction, and repercussions. Sometimes, the best move a PR agent can advise is simply laying low and waiting for a better moment to address the issue. On the other hand, though, a PR professional is accountable to the public for delivering the truth and propelling the narrative to a satisfactory close.