PRoactive, passionate, and calm


PR News' Matthew Schwartz

PR News’ Matthew Schwartz

I’m a stickler for writing right, partially because employers demand it.  It’s a point made in an article written in 2012 by iFixit CEO Kyle Weins, titled “I Won’t Hire People Who Use Poor Grammar. Here’s Why.”  Weins gives a mandatory grammar test to every applicant. “On the face of it, my zero tolerance approach to grammar errors might seem a little unfair,” he wrote. “After all, grammar has nothing to do with job performance, or creativity, or intelligence, right?” He goes on to say, “I’ve found that people who make fewer mistakes on a grammar test also make fewer mistakes when they are doing something completely unrelated to writing — like stocking shelves or labeling parts.  I hire people who care about those details.  Applicants who don’t think writing is important are likely to think lots of other (important) things also aren’t important.  And I guarantee that even if other companies aren’t issuing grammar tests, they pay attention to sloppy mistakes on resumes.  After all, sloppy is as sloppy does.”

I rather enjoyed Matthew Schwartz’s column in PR News last week titled, “What Makes a Great PR Employee: Let Us Count the Ways.”  Schwartz solicited responses to that question via PR News’ Facebook and Twitter and the feedback was interesting, revealing, and accurate.  Here are some of the Twitter responses:

A great employee…

  • Always shows passion.
  • Is an opportunist, and goes above and beyond expectations.
  • Is calm, cool, and collected.
  • Understands their role in the success of their employer.
  • Is open to criticism.
  • Is willing to see an issue from other viewpoints.
  • Is always proactive, considers his customer’s problem as his own problem, (and) always reacts before the crisis shows up.
  • Always puts the needs of their clients above their own.
  • Always provide best, honest advice to clients.
  • Goes for it and sticks with it and challenges the conventional.

So, after reading this, what would you add to the list?  What other characteristics make a great PR employee?  Which do you possess–or need?  Your thoughts?

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42 responses

  1. As a PR student looking to enter the professional world, this list is a great resource! Learning what employers are looking for when hiring will help me when developing my personal brand. Though grammar and writing skills are not the only attribute that make up an employee, it is a big part of the PR industry. If your grammar skills are not the best, work at it! It will show employers that you are willing to learn and will work hard. My favorite attribute listed in the article is to always show passion. Employers can see right through fake or scripted interviews. Being able to show up everyday with the passion and drive to succeed will help the average employee become a memorable one. Thank you for sharing such great insight!

  2. Christina Sewell | Reply

    I too believe that good grammar is vital to life (especially PR). However, my grammar isn’t the best and in no way, form, or shape does it dictate my work ethic. I am also a horrible test taker and have been that way for as long as I can remember (tests will never dictate how wise I am). Thus, I think it’s important to not base hiring on a grammar test. The list of what makes a good PR person is a very accurate one with my favorite quality being passion. I’d rather hire someone with a passion for the field than someone who just wants a paycheck.

  3. Francesco Vivacqua | Reply

    This post is correct. As for the list it can go on and on. Balance between positivity and negativity. works well with others. Always speaks up. and never lets a good idea go by.

  4. I agree wholeheartedly with this post. As an employee in the public relations field it is important to know how to effectively use proper grammar as well as be able to take criticism. IfI would add to this list I would definitely say organization. No one wants a Pr practitioner who is all over the place.

  5. I absolutely agree with the list above. I would add that it is also important for an employee to know how to cooperate with his/her coworkers. Teamwork really boosts the company’s success. Also, it is quite important for an employee to ask questions if he/she doesn’t know how to do something. Some people are too proud and want to seem really independent so they do things on their own. Independence is good, but pretending to know it all can be a very dangerous thing.

  6. I think being open to criticism and the willingness to see an issue from other viewpoints are probably the most necessary and difficult aspects of being a good employee. For PR professionals, writing skills are also quite invaluable but learning how to take criticism and to use it positively is a skill that takes a long time to cultivate.

  7. I agree with this list. But if I were to add to the list I would add that they should be organized, have an upbeat attitude, and they need to be able to handle criticism. I believe these are good qualities not only as a PR professional but as an employee in general.

  8. The importance of writing is stressed in your class, and I love that. It’s such a necessary skill, especially in the public relations profession. As you’ve said before, no writer is perfect, and we can all learn how to be better.
    I think this is a great list that should be relevant to all employees, not just those in the public relations field. You should always put your best self into your work. That way, you get the best results. If I could add anything to this list I would say that the ability to manage time is really important. There are many people who don’t know how to manage their time and it causes them to rush to get things done towards the end of their deadline. Overall, I think it’s an important skill for everyone to learn.

  9. Kendall Berman | Reply

    I agree with the list in it’s entirety. I would add: Integrity, promptness, be a team player, display confidence but know where they stand (authoritatively speaking), and diligence. I do believe all these things make a great employee and the one most important to me is going above and beyond expectations.

  10. I agree with all the points made in this article, and above all I believe that proper grammar and spelling is very important in public relations. I am not the best at writing, which means I know that I need to work hard in order to achieve the results I want. From reading this post I also realized the importance of taking criticism, and using it to improve my work.

  11. Kimberly Muoio | Reply

    I agree with all the points on the list. I definitely think that having confidence and not being afraid to share your opinions is extremely important. Especially in PR, being creative is so extremely important in any situation. A confident worker will get the best work done!

  12. Anthony Lucero | Reply

    There is no doubt that a certain set of skills and talents are required to be considered a great public relations employee. The list covers key factors, however, what can be added to this list is having a personable and charismatic attitude . The wiliness to go that extra mile along with the ability to create your own identity within the field takes also take one far. A keen eye for the little details along with being able to listen and think critically are highly in demand. Of course, though, writing ability plays a tremendous, if not the biggest, role. So much so that mastery of this craft with get your foot in the door in many places

  13. I love this list and believe all of the characteristics are vital needs to keeping most jobs. I can’t say I naturally maintain all these characteristics, but it is my goal to be able to strive for these characteristics to better handle my professional career and, in general, life itself. I believe any added ideas for this list would just branch off of these ones listed here. Staying humble would stem from at least half of the characteristics listed here, and not holding on to personal opinions too tight would also stem off some of the characteristics listed. I would assume that if these characteristics were to be discussed in a speech or class, I’m sure these concepts would be further explained. This list is more of a “straight to the point” kind of thing.

  14. Katherine Hammer | Reply

    I think that this list of characteristics should apply to every employee. It is important to have the skills necessary to better the company and present your client well. I think one thing I would add to the list would be to accept and learn from criticism. I think that one who affectively uses criticism constructively will be able to grow in every aspect of the job. From my job experience, I always used the criticism I received as a way to better myself as an employee. Our generation is very against being criticized and always wanting to receive praise, but I think without constructive criticism the job will not be finished to its fullest potential.

  15. Alexandria Alicea | Reply

    I honestly love the idea of the grammar test for the prospective employees. I’ve always been taught that the smallest things are they most important, as they are the foundation of the bigger picture. Although I thought I had a pretty good grip on my grammar, I’ve definitely become more aware of just how much I need to touch up on! I sometimes compare having good grammar to something more relatable, such as dressing for an interview. Although you may have the sharpest looking suit in the building, if your shirt is not tucked in, or tie properly tied, the entire look of it is altered. As far as the list of qualities, it pretty much touches on everything possible. The few things I may add would just be to have a thick skin, and be prepared to pick yourself up after you fall. Many times a pitch, event, or any situation really, might not go according to plan but that shouldn’t refrain you from continuing to put your best foot forward. Something that will work for one client may not necessarily work for another, and it is okay to make a mistake as long as you are able to learn from it and come back even stronger.

  16. I would add team player to this list. A public relations professional must be able to network and work side by side with fellow employees and/or people with opposite opinions.

  17. I think the list is pretty complete but I would add that a positive attitude is something that all PR Professionals should have. I think even in a negative situation a positive attitude can make clients feel more at ease.

  18. Brittany Witter | Reply

    I believe that list is pretty stocked. However, would add that the employee is able to listen and accept constructive criticism, and always a PR employee should be about to present numerous ideas. If one idea is disliked another idea should be ready to take it place in minutes. Innovation and creativity are critical to being a successful PR professional.

  19. I would add creative and openminded to the list. I think that particularly in the PR field, creativity is an extremely valuable asset. Whether it’s brainstorming a new social media campaign, or simply reworking a press release in the most interesting way possible, creativity is necessary for a great PR employee. When I say openminded, I mean this adjective in two senses. First, similar to being creative, a great PR employee should be open to trying new things and taking some (well calculated) risks. In addition, secondly, he or she must be open to criticism and change, in order to showcase the best work possible.

  20. Catherine Benny | Reply

    I’m not very good when it comes to grammar, and although I think this can be an indicator of how observant a person is, it is not the only necessary skill. I think PR people should be able to present or pitch a given idea in a variety of ways because clients may not always be able to see things from your point of view, so you need to be able to accommodate that. Of all the communication skills public relations professionals must possess, I think presentation and pitching are the most important. These skills persuade clients to come to your firm and trust you with their business.

  21. Hector Bonilla | Reply

    While decent grammar may not be a prerequisite for a strong work ethic, I definitely believe the former is a good indication of the latter. There’s a certain level of professionalism that is expected in the workplace, and if you skate by with grammar than what else are you going to overlook? Obviously this isn’t a concrete rule and can be circumstantial, but 7 out of 10 times improper grammar in the workplace is usually more from lack of effort than lack of knowledge.

  22. My writing skills are not the best. It is something I have been working on and will always continue to work on. Everyone can always be a better writer. I do not agree that your writing skills are a direct reflection of other skills, specificity office skills. Organization is key. I believe that should be added to the list. It’s something that I have become obsessed with and I find it helps with everyday activities, especially at work and school.

  23. I agree that grammar is important. Whenever I am on Facebook or Twitter, it is really disgraceful to see all the spelling errors coming from my peers or older. However, I do not think agree that grammar should make or break you regarding employment. The qualities that you listed I believe possess a great employee. I would also like to add punctual, multitasking, and organized to the list because those qualities possess a form of responsibility.

  24. Kelly Farrington | Reply

    Two obvious things that I would add are creative and organized. I would also say it’s important to know what to do to make your client’s customers (or readers, fans, students, etc.) happy, especially when they are unhappy or angry. I work in retail and whenever I have to deal with an unhappy customer, I often feel like I’m doing a little bit of PR for the company. For instance, if I mess up someone’s return resulting in an overly long transaction time, I might give them a few extra coupons to make up for the wait. Also, if a customer is mad over something that I cannot control (such as the price of an item, the fact that they aren’t able to combine certain coupons) I will make sure not to further anger them by asking them to donate to a charity we are partnering with or ask for their phone number. The funny thing is is that if my district manager saw me doing these things, I would probably get in trouble for not doing everything by the book. However, as a PR person I know what I am doing is better for the company overall, so I still do these things even though I’m not really supposed to. My company desperately needs new marketing & PR people, I swear.

    When it comes to the need of perfect grammar, I am a bit biased because I believe writing is one of my strongest skills. Therefore, I like the idea of an employer preferring perfect grammar because that gives me an advantage. However, I don’t think having not-so-perfect grammar skills means that a person doesn’t pay attention to detail or won’t be good at PR. Over the years I have realized that many people just don’t “get” grammar, especially people my age.

  25. Applying this list to what makes a great PR professional, I would add “always has a plan.” As we’ve discussed in class time and time again having a plan of what you would do in a crisis before the crisis occurs is what makes the difference between a good PR professional and a great one.

  26. This is great list. If I were to add a characteristic it would be someone who is time sensitive. I don’t necessarily mean being on time, but as a PR professional, it’s important to know when something is important. If it is breaking news or eye catching you need to strike while the iron is hot. As for myself, I feel from this list that everyone needs to be open to criticism more, especially in this field. I always put my client’s needs before my own and I think that is just good service.

  27. I think this is a very solid list of characteristics that PR employees need to possess. In some ways PR can be considered a customer service position, therefore knowing how to interact with customers is a huge skill needed. I have been working in retail for almost 4 years now and I have learned extensive skills in customer service. I believe it is one of the main reasons I have decided to major in public relations. I enjoy dealing with customers, even when I have negative experiences I try to take away a lesson learned. Working in retail has created a good foundation for the work I will pursue in the future.

  28. I’d have to both agree and disagree with Wein’s article. I do feel that it is extremely important to focus on grammar and punctuation especially working in PR. It is important because there is so much writing to be done in the profession. What i disagree with is that just because someone may have poor grammar it does not mean they have a poor work ethic or the inability to do great things for a company. Myself along with many others are not the worlds greatest spellers nor have the best grammar but are pretty great at other things and could bring a lot to the table. Something I’d like to add to the list would be to be fully committed and willing to admit when mistakes are made. When you have a passion for something, you should be able to adjust to the way things need to be done.

  29. Olga Varnavskaya | Reply

    I agree so much that grammar has a lot to do with job performance. Strong grammar skill is one of the big signs that person cares about details, that he/she is accurate, intelligent, educated, able to pay attention to small, though important things. After all, it’s all about credibility.
    It is important to remember that your grammar in many cases is like your business card, and even more. A PR agent’s client will hardly ask for his diploma before hiring him, but definitely will pay attention to his spelling mistakes (or the absence of those) and the ability to express thoughts in the proposal.
    This is fair for all professions. We expect from professionals to know their business well and be meticulous in everything they do. Nobody wants to go to a negligent doctor, to live in a building that was designed by half-educated engineer, or just sit at a restaurant table which a sloppy waiter/waitress forgot to clean.

  30. Marisa Beachdell | Reply

    I strongly agree that the proper use of grammar is a hirable attribute. Personally I get extremely frustrated when people have bad grammar or make spelling mistakes. Anytime I read a book I am the first to notice spelling mistakes or grammar issues. Similarly, when watching television I am the first to point out mistakes in consistency. Another important characteristic for a desirable employee would be patience. Aside from this, organization skills are critical.

  31. One of the lessons that has been instilled in my mind since grade school is attention to detail. I was never the best writer, but because I took the time to proof read and make corrections it made writing a lot easier. Also since I have started my internship i think PR professionals need to be able to take criticism and use it to benefit my writing. I say this because you learn from your mistakes and make the corrections.

  32. First off, sorry for commenting on this late…but I would add one that pays attention to details, dresses/acts professionally, and has thick skin and can deal with adversity. When it comes to grammar, the older I’ve gotten the more important I feel it is. I feel when we see someone write with proper grammar, it ups ones credibility. It also shows you care about every little detail.

  33. I agree with everything on that list. Each bullet is extremely important in being a PR professional. Another characteristic I would add is being “thick-skinned.” A PR person can be “shot down” quite a few times in their career whether it be pitching something or someone not liking what they do. A PR professional needs to adapt the ability to critique and use it to make them grow.

  34. LaChele Prophet | Reply

    PR professionals must stay up to date with all that goes on in the world. I want to work in entertainment so I try to keep up with all the latest news in that industry. I must work on writing well. In PR you must write well and that is something I struggle with and really need to work on. In the end, everyone is different and brings something different to the table and I think that should be considered in the workplace. I think tech savy should be added to the list because there are a lot of tools PR professionals use and I’m just learning some of them, there’s a lot more I need to know.

  35. I think the knowledge of proper grammar and spelling should definitely be a requirement for all journalism and public relations jobs. I also think being an EFFECTIVE team member should be added to the list. Anyone can work in groups or teams, but that does not mean the group works. If every member were to be an effective team member, “slackers” would not exist–providing a better work environment and end result.

  36. Grammar is so important! Especially in a PR job, PR professionals need to craft every sentence they ever right carefully and purposefully – all of their copy and every word they say will be scrutinized and judged by one public or another. It’s a lot of pressure, but ultimately, it’s not a skill that is very hard to learn.

    Echoing Schwartz’s sentiments, I find that when people use correct grammar, it’s an indication of their intelligence and abilities in other areas of life.

    And on another note, I would add “is a quick learner and can think on their feet,” to the list of great employee qualities. In PR, especially when you are dealing with multiple clients, you must be up-to-date on the client’s business and his or her needs, you must be able to handle a crisis on a moment’s notice, you must be able to book interviews and get press while handling multiple media deadlines, etc. It’s extremely important therefore, for a PR professional to be flexible and fast-thinking on the job.

  37. Avalon Bohunicky | Reply

    One of my biggest pet peeves is incorrect grammar, especially when it is done professionally. Even the smallest typo in a newspaper can bother me. Incorrect grammar can lead to confusion or even frustration if it is used in the media. I would add that an employee should always act and dress professionally, be timely and organized, and have a broad range of knowledge in their field. A public relations employee must be able to develop clear and effective thoughts in a concise amount of time. These bullet points are the most fundamental characteristics that an employee in any field should possess. I have further developed these employee skills based on my three years working as a sales associate in a jewelry store. I always tried my hardest and acted my best, and I was always open for change and criticism.

  38. I think I would add, “The ability to adapt to criticism”. You can be open to criticism in the sense that it does not hurt you to hear it, but if you don’t take that criticism and alter your work or your method, then that criticism has become pointless. I feel that as an employee, I have had a great understanding of my role in the success of my employers. When I worked as a cashier last summer, I knew that every smile or frown, every miscalculated total or incorrectly filled order, reflected on my employer and determined what that customer thought of that establishment and impacted the kind of revenue that the business generated.

  39. Alexandra Cohen | Reply

    I would add to the list: organized, multitasker, proper spelling and grammar, acts and dresses professionally, good public speaking skills, and a good listener. If you want to be in the public relations field you have to be a good writer and a good public speaker. In order to be a good writer you need to have perfect grammar. Even if you make a mistake here or there, always have one or more people read over and edit your work to make sure nothing is wrong. In order to be a good public speaker you need to maintain eye contact, use hand gestures, and dress the part. Public relations also has a lot to do with image, so make sure you look and act professional and appropriate. You also need to know what’s going on in the news because you need to be well rounded and up to date on what’s going on in the world and how that might affect you’re company and/or client.

  40. Laura Schioppi | Reply

    I know my writing skills are terrible and that is something I need to work on. A good PR person must know how to write, but possess many other qualities to be good at their job. There should not be a list of what a person should or should not have. Everyone is different and that is what makes some PR people unique. We need to be aware of what is happening in the world and keep it professional to strive and be the best.

  41. Something I would add to the list is being well rounded. This quality kind of goes along with your “Trivia” post on why it’s important. Having an understanding of the world, and life experience is important. Personally, I wished I possessed better writing skills. I’ve always been a “math” person, where puzzles and math come easy to me, but not english. I think the bullets above are fair and important for any future employee.

  42. Bert Cunningham | Reply

    I would add: The willingness to listen. Really listen.

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