PCC Luncheon: How to Succeed in PR in 2014

By: Bruce Kennedy

983983_10152901608335507_870577662_nThis past Wednesday, the Publicity Club of Chicago (PCC) held their monthly luncheon at Maggiano’s restaurant, this time with a focus on “How to Succeed in PR in 2014.” Motion PR sent Nicole Pitaro and myself to attend the event and see what we could learn, while enjoying some delicious food and the company of some of the best PR and communications professionals Chicago has to offer.

A panel of top PR executives from the Chicago area offered their advice and insights on breaking into the Chicago PR scene in 2014 and what trends people in the field need to be watching in the upcoming year. The panel consisted of Executive Vice President Allison Cirullo of Edelman, Chief Executive Officer Dorothy Pirovano from Public Communications Inc., President of KSA Public Relations/Public Affairs Kathy Schaeffer and Executive Vice President/Market leaders, Midwest Erica Swerdlow of Burson-Marsteller.

Take a look below for some of the top takeaways from the luncheon!

Getting the job/internship in 2014:

  • Strong writing skills are still key: “Writing skills have fallen off” one panelist mentioned. She suggested going back to the basics and making sure your writing skills are up to par and that you are ready to take a writing test before expecting a job.
  • A diverse skill set: More than ever PR firms need a wide range of people with interest and skills in other areas. As PR becomes a bigger part of the marketing mix and takes on new tasks and new industries hiring managers are looking for people with diverse backgrounds and interests. The panel recommended showcasing any business, leadership or marketing experience on your resume. Also, if you have interest outside of PR that you can showcase in a tactful way they may end up being relevant to an existing client the agency has.
  • Interview skills: One quote that really stuck with me from the panel was “the best resume in the world cannot save a bad interview.” An interview allows a potential employer to preview how you may act in a face-to-face meeting with a client and interact with people at the office. If you cannot favorably represent yourself in an interview it begs the question of how you would do the same for the agency to a client, or a client to a reporter.
  • Senior level positions: The panel noted one of the biggest mistakes people make in applying for higher level jobs is failing to highlight examples of their leadership skills. When aiming for executive level positions, don’t just talk about the success of a campaign you spearheaded or the impression numbers, but also demonstrate how you managed the team on this campaign, what challenges you faced, and how you lead the team through these obstacles.

Trends to watch for 2014:

  • PR will take on a larger role in the marketing mix: If PR firms do not ask “what audiences are you trying to reach?” and then make recommendations on what channels are appropriate for that message, they may miss out on the chance to expand their business and to win larger portions of a clients business. The panel spoke about opportunities for PR firms to expand into marketing, advertising, setting strategies and consoling brands on their internal communications.
  • Real time PR communication: Social media has opened the door for brands to communicate with people in real time and react to opportunities in the news. The most famous example of this being the Oreo Super bowl Tweet.
  • Earned/Paid/Owned: As media channels converge and evolve PR pros will have to help clients keep understand when it is appropriate to use each. Many clients may be weary of PR firms securing paid blogs or placements and the panel shared stories of their own firms struggling with these questions. Overall they recommended you make a decision on a case-to-case basis making sure the decision is ethical and makes sense for the brand you are representing.