“My natural curiosity about their market allowed me to demonstrate to my client we’re watching their industry — as we should be.”
I’m often asked, especially by students, what skills are most important to a successful career in public relations. I find they are usually expecting to hear my take on the “usual suspects” list — strong news writing skills, the ability to pitch a story, organization, etc.
Those are all important, certainly, but I believe there is one single most important trait in order to be successful in public relations:
It could be argued that natural curiosity is not a skill, but I will counter that curiosity applied by PR practitioners is one of the greatest skills anyone can bring to the profession. I feel this way for three reasons:
Deeper conversations make for better stories: Curiosity naturally leads to more in-depth questions and a deeper dialogue about a project. We do a great deal of work in tech. Frequently, engineers who designed a product will explain a key feature in specifications. While specs are important, it’s also critical to get to why that feature was designed: Why is that important? Who would use this? How is this being done today without your tool? Does anyone else have this feature? And so on. Without being curious and really getting to the heart of the matter, it’s nearly impossible to be sure you’ve got what you need to craft the best possible story.
New questions often lead to new ideas: It’s not uncommon for one of our clients to respond to a question with something like, “I never looked at it that way, but that’s really interesting.” From there, the conversation can go from a new way to talk about a feature to a completely new application. It’s easy to get too close to something and see it the same way again and again. Often a question or conversation can open up an entirely new angle.
You tend to focus on what you’re curious about — and that’s a good thing. I’m personally curious about technology, so I consume quite a bit of technology news. That natural interest allows me to be informed about the market, what others are doing, trends and more. A couple of weeks ago, I found an article about a startup that was doing something similar to what one of my clients was doing had completed a nine-figure capital raise. I sent it to my client with an “I’m sure you’ve seen this, but just in case” note. Turns out, they hadn’t seen it and were very appreciative. My natural curiosity about their market allowed me to demonstrate to my client we’re watching their industry — as we should be.
An added bonus: everyone loves to talk about their work, and they are usually appreciative and engaged when someone shows interest. Whether you’re an agency practitioner or in-house PR counsel, being known as someone who shows genuine interest and a desire to learn more is a welcome addition to any team.
One of the traits I look for in potential new hires is curiosity. Were you curious enough to visit our website and learn more? Did you have some questions about the company, our staff or even just the market in general? It’s not my ego talking, but if a candidate doesn’t do that about a company they hope to work for, they likely won’t do it with clients and prospects. While that might (and I’ll say, does) fly in some companies, it doesn’t fly here.
After all, it was Albert Einstein who said, “I have no special talent. I am only passionately curious.” That worked out pretty well for him.
If you’re curious about this, or anything else about our company, drop me an email. I’m curious what you think.