Essential Skills (Part 2)
Being the Public Relations professional in a Company is akin to being a performer in an international circus. There is the tightrope walk between all the public through which you must deftly manoeuvre your brand message, the juggling act where you have hundreds of balls of your various functions up in the air, the drama of jumping through fire lit hoops crafted by the crisis situations your role lands you in, the jester’s performance since you must keep a smile plastered on your face even in the most do or die instances and the class acrobatic cum trampoline show where you jump from one plank of responsibility to another with exhibited ease.
Jokes apart, the role of a PR professional is cross-dimensional, multifarious and with new challenges springing up all in a day’s work.
In Part 1 of this theme, we looked at fifteen of the essential skills that you must equip yourself with in order to be a top-notch PR player. Let us look at the remaining significant traits in the second Part –
Do not be a fish in the pond, be a whale in an ocean. There; I went on the habitual cliché. The point I wish to drive home is, grow your horizon beyond the local and national and benchmark internationally. Better still, be Glocal with local sensibilities and a global perspective.
Develop healthy and productive relationships with a wide array of publics – ranging from Government representatives, diplomats, artists and performers to Travel & Tourism industry folk, eminent community people and hotel guests, the last being perhaps one of the most important. And yes, you must also have an outstanding rapport with your colleagues – a lot of them end up being your media talent. In any case, you are playing on the same side as them in the winning game of successful Brand identity and Reputation Management.
Stay keen, curious, excited and hungry for knowledge and information. A piqued interest in anything new or offbeat or out of the ordinary makes you a fascinating story-teller and a dynamic PR professional who is always loaded with rich nuggets to share. It could be the la-di-dah lobby flower arrangement, the specially flown artisanal products at the Spa, the enchanting towel origami in the rooms, the consignment of bespoke wine bottled specially for the hotel, range of patisserie uniquely offered by your Pastry Shop, the Christmas decorations that set you apart, the tailor-made menu conjured up by diving into rich recipes of the legendary past of a regional cuisine, the distinctive and latest fleet of limousines – the options are endless and exciting.
You must develop a keen inclination towards Travel; it offers education like no other and is one of finest teachers of all. It makes you a global professional who can fit in international and multicultural work milieu with ease. It exposes you to the fascinating cultures and people from around the world. You get to see and learn firsthand a lot of practices that your international hotel adheres to. And Travel turns you into an interesting person and a great conversationalist.
Read up on issues of General importance. You should have a cultivated interest in a wide range of topics and must make a habit of reading up on them. One of my favourite bosses, and the second mentor in my corporate career used to nudge us to read extensively. He himself would begin his day by giving a long glance to the finance and business sections of the morning papers and then proceed to read hospitality newsletters as and when his time would permit. At a meeting, in order to motivate us, he shared a leaf from his experience. One morning, he told us, he had kept busy reading up on the automobile industry and the latest developments in that sector. At lunch, that afternoon, with the Managing Director of an auto major, he managed to build a good connection by showing up as an interested, informed and intelligent hotelier who was on the same page as the important guest and could identify with the guest’s focus and demands with ease.
Half of your work time will be spent in entertaining. Half of the other half will go in working closely with the F&B department. Hence, it will make a lot of sense to develop a sort of deep fancy and affinity for food as a stream of work along with an appreciation of good food and wine. This will help you hold your own at Menu launches and Wine dinners, be a knowledgeable conduit between the F&B colleagues and the media, not look like a greenhorn or a misfit and bring high value to those entire PR, Sales and Brand management strategies that revolve around food and beverage.
You must hone your skill in Public Speaking. As a PR representative of your Company, there will be a zillion platforms where you will need to wield the mike and come out looking like a Pro. From internal meetings and PR presentations to charity balls, community events, and webinars; there will be so many occasions for you to get on the podium and speak, that it will do you well to practice public speaking on a regular basis. Use a mirror, use colleagues as guinea pigs, grab every chance you get to speak in order to come out as the outstandingly foremost Ambassador that you, in your PR role, are meant to be.
Develop an expertise in Event Management. As a Hotel PR person, this chunk of responsibility falls into your lap. While, behind the scenes, there is a lot of hard work, sweat, toil, and coordination that goes into it, this is fun and electrifying work too. In the course of your tenure, you get to handle a big bag of events ranging from fashion shows, art exhibitions, supper theatre to piano concerts, symphony orchestra, and sporting tournaments, to name a few.
You must work with the General Manager’s Office and the HR Department to develop a strong strategy based on Corporate Social Responsibility. Companies have been known to endorse Government-led projects in earmarked villages, sponsor environment-focussed activities, offer a scholarship to children with special needs, support a community developed around sustainability and green belt model. There is a lot you can do, as payback to the Society and you must partake of this privilege. After all, a Company’s real worth, value, and success are truly measured by what it contributes to the Society in which it thrives.
The role of a hotel PR is made dicey and thrilling, at the same time, by the eclectic range of crises you may be called to handle. Crisis Handling and Issues Management are the two extremely important areas of responsibility in your strategic role. At hotels it could range from a simple bad review of a food festival to the dramatic unnatural death on the premises; from the repercussions of a bad speech made by the head honcho to a run-in with the law on account of a questionable activity of a suspicious guest. The gamut is wide and could come with no precedent. Therefore, you must really learn the ropes of handling different kinds of crises, with tutored calm and maturity.
Because the internal publics are as significant in your scheme of things, do pay a lot of heed to Internal communications. Make sure that you are as focussed on sharing the Company news with the employee base as you are with the media. Work hand in glove with HR on employee events and workshops. Step out and provide media training to an extended set of people, thereby developing an army of skillful and well-versed brand ambassadors.
With such diversity in your daily duties and a rich mixed plate of responsibilities, there are a set of personal qualities and attributes that will help you get head and neck above any comparison. Some of the important ones are – attention to detail, promptness in responses, capacity to handle stress, ability to deliver on short notice, a talent for genuinely liking people and building relationships, being likable yourself and easy to get along with a varied set of people, multi-tasking, keeping calm under pressure and being passionate about what you do.
If you develop each of the above skills/traits, then you will have less to rely on sham, superficiality, and spin; all of which have given PR a bad name.
A truly qualified PR professional brings respect to their own self, their organization and their area of competence; founding their career on a bedrock of sound PR fundamentals, performance best practices, and work ethics.