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The 5 key qualities you need to be a successful Press Officer

It has been nearly a year since I became the Press Officer at theEword. During that time, there have been plenty of highs and lows (hopefully, more of the former than the latter!). Some press releases failed to set the world on fire, while others got theEword and its clients talked about everywhere from How-Do and The Drum to North West Business Insider and The Wall. On the social side, meanwhile, we enjoyed an unbelievable response to the publication of our landmark Manchester Twitter Report in July 2010.

Now seems as good a time as any to reflect on what it is that makes a good Press Officer. At the risk of sounding melodramatic, I honestly don’t believe anyone can achieve great results without having these 5 qualities:

  1. A network of contacts – The old adage ‘it’s not what you know, it’s who you know’ certainly rings true in the PR world. A good Press Officer needs to be constantly on the lookout for ways to interact with influential journalists and bloggers. This may be through formal networking events, informal social gatherings or even, increasingly, on Twitter. Oh and if you’re not on Twitter yet – what are you waiting for?!
  2. People skills – Press Officers have to be able to deal with people in a variety of situations. You must be polite with clients but also confident enough in your own abilities to know when a different approach would work better. You also need to have a likeable manner and a real knack for persuasion when it comes to selling in press releases. The odd Jedi Mind Trick wouldn’t go amiss either.
  3. Creativity – Of course, you can’t just rely on people skills to get by; you also need to come up with ideas and angles that will really capture the imagination. Even the best work will sink without trace unless you can sum it up in a single killer line that gets journalists and readers hooked. Get your pitch sorted and it’s all plain sailing from there.
  4. A head for figures – PR may attract creative types but don’t be fooled into thinking Press Officers spend all day with their heads in the clouds. The best Press Officers combine blue-sky thinking with a solid grounding in numbers, tables and spreadsheets. After all, you have to be able to prove to clients that your ideas are delivering measurable results day in, day out. And to do that, you’ll need to be able to find your way around Google Analytics, TweetStats and – whisper it – Excel.
  5. Luck – This one speaks for itself really. You can put in all the preparation in the world but, ultimately, you’re still at the mercy of time-pressed editors with a million other things on their mind. Get used to it!

That’s what I think – I’ll leave it to others to decide how well I measure up to my own checklist! If you spot anything I’ve missed or even if you disagree totally, I’d love to hear your thoughts on what qualities make a successful Press Officer. Although you may need to join Twitter first!

Richard Frost

Written by Richard Frost
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