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Some Spectacular Features of Public Relations Practitioners

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Broad Characteristics

The following are some of the qualifications listed as desirable by an employment specialist in this general area: open-mindedness, reliability, loyalty, aggressiveness, ability to get along, stability, personal character, health, responsibility, and solvency. A person looking for employment should keep in mind, according to this authority: desire for security, opportunity for advancement, location of job, pleasant working environment, appreciation of efforts by employer, absence of office politics, management respect for employees' opinions, reliability, progressive management, efficiency, and identification with job, status, and relationship of the job to personal life, and satisfactory financial rewards. Financial rewards are last on the list. If other values are in position, such rewards are bound to come.

The public relations practitioner wants to help people. The unemotional detachment of a research physicist or chemist is not advantageous. A desire to help should be a dominant characteristic. As the public relations practitioner grows in economic independence, much time will be devoted to advising people and organizations, who do not pay for the advice. The practitioner will gain satisfaction from professional usefulness as do lawyers who work with the Legal Aid Society or the Civil Liberties Union, or doctors who devote time and effort to free clinic or hospital service. Such activity fulfills professional desires and responsibilities.

A public relations person must have continuing knowledge of public affairs. He or she must keep in touch with new developments in the field of communication, both mechanical and in opinion measurement.

Special Qualifications

Public relations practitioners, who become advisers to key personnel in profit or nonprofit enterprises, whether employed or retained experts, find themselves in a difficult human situation. They must give advice to individuals after a situation has been mastered and solutions have been found. Individuals usually feel that advice contrary to their beliefs is an attack on their ego, and they resent such advice. Usually the ego looks for confirmation of its a priori opinion. An adviser who bluntly tells a principal that he is wrong and should do something he is not already doing assaults the ego and creates resentment.

In a crisis, however, a principal may follow advice blindly, looking on the public relations practitioner as a medicine man (or woman) of magic. Sometimes the principal accepts advice contrary to his a priori opinion because it costs so much that subconsciously he feels the only way to get value for the expenditure is to do as recommended. He eases the pain of paying by telling himself that anything so expensive must be good.

Neither of these reasons for acceptance is ideal. Willing cooperation is the soundest approach. How can you best get someone to accept a viewpoint not his own from the start? A psychologist has suggested that the best approach is to "appeal to the sense of personal worth of the individual." Instead of saying, "I want you to do this" or "I urge you to do this," let the public relations practitioner cite authority for the advice. "Outstanding leaders in the XYZ field followed successfully the recommendation I am making to you," or "A precedent for the recommendation I shall make to you has recently been proven sound."

Skills in Writing and Public Speaking

We have already commented that skills in writing and speaking are secondary in public relations. The emphasis on these skills by extracurricular courses on public relations management is, in my opinion, inconsistent with reality. The ability to express oneself clearly in the written and spoken word is an asset. It is in most fields of activity. It is in public relations too. But these two skills are among many others demanded of the public relations practitioner, and they are not the most important ones.

Is writing a gift, or can one learn to write? The answer to both questions is yes. Great writing, like sculpture or painting, is a gift and cannot be acquired. But a logical thinker can be taught to convey meaning more effectively. The Elements of Style by William Strunk and E. B. White is a good book on writing. As regards speech, great orators are born, not made. But techniques will make a thoughtful person more effective in breath control, pauses, and the like.

The Ability to Keep Informed

A good public relations practitioner absorbs information rapidly. The world is changing so fast that unless you keep in touch with developments of all kinds you suffer from a time lag.

You can keep yourself informed by reading books and periodicals that range the spectrum of life. You can watch and listen to television and radio, motion pictures and drama, music, painting, and sculpture, to interpret present and future trends and contemporary thinking. Do not restrict yourself to reading or contacts that bolster your own beliefs. Open-mindedness is essential in your work.
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