Can Working at the Mall Make You a Better Communications Professional?
You’ll be surprised at the answer.
By Ashley Weaver, PR Assistant
When it comes to deciding on public relations as a potential career, how do you know if you’ve got what it takes to be successful? While there are a number of different skills and qualifications needed to be a PR pro, certain life experiences might also be good indicators. Take working in sales, for example. If you’ve ever worked in retail sales, you know it’s not as easy as it looks. Long hours, unhappy customers, non-stop enthusiasm… It can get a little rough.
Like many college grads, my career started working in a retail sales environment. I can tell you that many of the lessons learned from my experience in sales are hugely beneficial in the public relations and marketing industry. Here are just a few:
Confidence is key.
Salespeople get shot down a lot. Doors are slammed, phone lines get disconnected, genuine “Can I help you find anything?” questions are received with silence and evil eyes – it happens. Rejection is a daily occurrence in PR as well. The most perfectly tailored pitch can fall on deaf ears. A reporter will hang up the second they realize you’re a PR person, or worse, tell you to never call again and THEN hang up. To put it simply, sometimes people don’t want to talk to you. And that’s OK. Taking it personally only hinders your success. Having the confidence to put yourself out there and refusing to be discouraged goes a long way in PR.
Knowledge is power.
You can’t sell something that you know nothing about. That means knowing enough about your clients and what they do, and being able to package that information as concisely and interestingly as possible in order to pitch the story (aka the product) to a reporter. Keep in mind that the more details you can provide, including anecdotes and specific examples, the better. Following the latest trends in your clients’ industry doesn’t hurt either. What’s the competition doing? It’s hard to be truly successful in PR without being well informed.
Composure is everything.
Sometimes, things go really wrong. A customer becomes outraged, an employee gets into major trouble – How do you react? Do you crack under the pressure, fly off the handle or maintain a level head? The way you handle a crisis in public relations can be a turning point in your career. In our world, we know the importance of gaining control of a difficult situation as quickly as possible. Panic, anger and worry all get in the way of doing your job. Whatever gets thrown your way, just remember: Take a deep breath, keep calm and get ‘er done!
As nice as it would be, we can’t all begin our careers in our field of choice. No matter what line of work you’re in, past experiences play a factor in the way you do your current job. If you’re like me and you have a background in sales, then your communication skills can easily be considered a strength may transition nicely in the PR world.