7 habits of highly successful PR people

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Stephen Covey’s seminal work, “The 7 Habits of Highly Successful People,” has been in my library for more than a decade. If you haven’t read it, it’s a must read. It’s timeless.

The seven habits are applicable to anyone, and for public relations professionals, they are particularly helpful in your work with journalists, clients and the public. Here are ways you can apply Covey’s proven seven habits to your PR work.

Habit 1: Be proactive.

Instead of waiting for an opportunity to emerge, smart PR pros create opportunities.

This is especially applicable to client relationships and business development. As Angelique Rewers of The Corporate Agent says, “Sell to the spark”:

“Spark events are changes, decisions and activities within an organization, or in the market or industry in general, that can create an immediate need or desire for your service offerings. Contacting a potential client when it coincides with an appropriate spark event can create just the window of opportunity you need in order to grab the prospect’s attention and also dramatically shorten the sales cycle.” — The Corporate Agent

Selling to the spark is the ultimate embodiment of the “be proactive” habit applied to business development.

Habit 2: Begin with the end in mind.

This habit is particularly important when planning a campaign or PR program. Before you develop media target or desired outcomes, it is important to understand the overall goals of your client or brand: What do we hope this program achieves for the business or organization? Does this program help drive fundraising, increase sales, or increase overall brand awareness?

Understanding the goal helps with the planning process.

Habit 3: Put first things first.

Every day, a public relations professional’s calendar is filled with competing priorities. It is important early in one’s career to learn how to prioritize what tasks are truly important and must be tackled first.

Habit 4: Think win-win.

Whenever you are trying to establish partnerships in PR, you must think win-win. The road to successful community and corporate partnerships, sponsorships, media placements, fundraising success, and success of any other kind within PR is paved with mutually beneficial relationships.

Before you ask a potential partner to do something on either your or your client’s behalf, think of how the partnership can be beneficial to both your partner and you.

Habit 5: Seek first to understand, then to be understood.

This is a great one to put into practice when you work with journalists.

When I worked in the newsroom at the “Washington City Paper,” I would often get pitches from well-meaning PR specialists who didn’t understand my beat or interests. I was hungry for great stories—I always had to feed the news beast—but despite my desire to take my editor five or six viable story ideas each week, I often found myself with an inbox full of pitches that weren’t a good fit.

If you are pitching a journalist, it is important to know what types of stories he or she is looking for before you pick up the phone or send that email. With the Internet, this is easier than ever. It takes but a moment to do a Google search on your reporter’s past coverage.

Try to understand the reporter’s interests, and then try to get a sense of her schedule so you know her needs. Most reporters are on deadline from mid-morning to late afternoon, so if you want to get them on the phone, early in the morning or later in the day could work.

Habit 6: Synergize.

When it comes to PR, it truly takes a village. Think of the last major successful event or campaign you witnessed. Now think of the last successful campaign you pulled off yourself. Chances are you relied on the talent of many to make your vision a reality.

Particularly in a collaborative field like public relations, where you are asked to win the public, media, potential partners, and sponsors, it takes the effort of many to make something spectacular happen.

Habit 7: Sharpen the saw.

In the age of social media, a public relations professional must always look for ways to learn new skills. Learning doesn’t end in the classroom, and the field is ever-changing. Twitter and Facebook didn’t exist a decade ago, yet now they are mainstay tools of communication.

Commit yourself to lifelong learning, and understand there is always more to learn. You’re never too much of an expert to learn something new.

Amanda Miller Littlejohn runs Mopwater Social PR. Follow her on Twitter @amandamogul. She blogs at Mopwater PR + Media Notes, where a version of this article originally appeared.

This first ran on Ragan.com in December 2012.

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