Last semester students in the PR Firms course had the opportunity of listening to Bill Sledzik, associate professor in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Kent State, discuss public relations counseling. If you are wondering why I asked a professor to discuss public relations counseling, then you should view Bill’s credientials. In short, he knows his stuff–and the student’s loved it.
Although we know counseling is important it is one of those things that most people, unfortunately, don’t consider until things go bad. Maybe that explains the rise of interest in crisis communications, reputation and image management, etc. So what is necessary to become a respected public relations counselor? Here are Bill’s top three pieces of advice:
1. Listen-Listening skills are core. As counselor you must not only be able to ask the right questions and write well, but you must also be able to take information in and synthesize it. “In the end we are problem-solvers who use writing and listening to help solve problems.” In essence, what is causing the client pain. “No pain=no work.”
2. Research-You must dive-in and build-up your knowledge of the issue, client, etc. Understand the benefits of secondary (and primary) research.
3. Candor-Sometimes the client is wrong and you must find a tactful way to tell them they are wrong. “PR counseling is what you say and how you say it.” If you make the client your friend it allows you to listen to them, it makes it easier for you to be honest with them, and of course it is more difficult for them to fire you. Who fires their friends?
Prior to opening the floor for questions Bill provided the students with the following list of professional skills he deem necessary to be successful in public relations firms:
- writing (refer to “The three minute drill” by James Lukaszewski)
- public speaking (ability to synthesize (simplify) information)
- learning to say no (professional value)
- willing to take risk with your career (can’t be afraid to move from agency to agency).
Many thanks to Bill for speaking to the class.
Photo image found on Facebook. All rights are reserved by Bill Sledzik.