5 things you need to create a highly successful career as a public relations pro

I’m not sure if I’m having a successful enough career to qualify to speak on this topic. Anyway, an interesting talk with Authority Magazine on the different ups and downs in my PR journey, some of the tips I think would be helpful to succeed in this industry, and more…

Thank you so much for your time! I know that you are a very busy person. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

At first, I didn’t know about PR or communications or had any idea about the job that they entail. Originally, my major was Chemistry, and I was on track to becoming a pharmacist. But as time went by, I realized that I enjoy observing people and their problems, finding creative solutions, delivering information, and fostering relationships than staying in the lab. I wanted to change my career to one that communicates messages and information to people. That was when I learned about the communications industry. To be honest, it was all by coincidence. And when I did my internship and engaged more in this career, I could finally confirm to myself that I made the right decision. Since then, I’ve worked in the industry for more than ten years.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began at your company?

When I first started, I thought that we only need industry knowledge and public relations skills, such as market research, strategic planning, market understanding, and strategic consultancy, to succeed. However, I soon realized that PR professionals also need people skills. Public relations truly lives up to its name. Not only does it build relationships with the company’s key stakeholders, but also builds relationships with colleagues, copywriters, designers, and other departments within the company; as well as with the local community, industry associations, and influencers. The key takeaway here is that – expertise alone is not enough. PR professionals also need to polish their people skills. I wasn’t taught this in school.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

I used to think that PR is laid back and less aggressive than many other industries. We in this industry prefer a comfortable environment to provide scope for creativity. However, that’s within the company or the department. Meeting clients is a whole different story. When presenting and pitching a new idea to a client, PR practitioners need to build a professional image to showcase that we’re experienced and capable of executing the proposed plan.

With that being said, the first impression is very important. If you don’t dress up formally or professionally enough, it would affect your image in the eyes of your clients. And unfortunately, I learned this the hard way. 

And it’s not only always about dressing up formally. With each situation and target audience, we need to adapt ourselves accordingly. Sometimes you need formal attire, but sometimes, you need casual wear to close the distance and make your audience feel comfortable. So in the end, the ‘people’ factor is once again at the center of PR.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?

We’ve supported many clients, and we treasure the bond with each of them. If I need to pick one most interesting ongoing project, it would be AstraZeneca. Our main task is to provide media intelligence and help them liaise with local media, influencers, healthcare professionals, and be their local representatives to create a well-rounded integrated marketing communications plan that leaves an impact. Working with AstraZeneca, we helped them communicate and raise awareness for vaccination in Vietnam. It’s not only promoting the AstraZeneca brand name, but also creating an impact on the local community and lessening the local death rate through the endorsement of COVID-19 vaccination. This is why this project is meaningful for us.

You are a successful leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?

My choice would be inspiration, passion, and self-recognition. 

For inspiration, it drives your learning spirit and helps you follow the latest industry trends. The inspiration to know more, to learn more, and become a better PR practitioner is important in this career.

For passion, it gives you motivation and a sense of achievement to climb the career ladder. It also enforces your ethical standards while conducting PR jobs. PR is one of the most stressful jobs, so without passion, I doubt that you’ll go far down the road.

For self-recognition, I take pride in being a PR professional. But, sadly, PR is often overshadowed by advertising or marketing activities. Not many people truly understand the nature of PR and think that it is a non-essential business. Still, I believe in the values that we offer to the community. Most of the time, when we communicate our brands or clients’ messages, we also raise public awareness, just like in the case of AstraZeneca that we mention. Our job is to deliver the message to those who need it. And I’m always delighted and inspired every time we’re able to offer value to clients. 

Ok super. Thank you for all that. Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview.  For the benefit of our readers, can you help articulate what the different forms of PR are? 

There are at least seven different types of PR:

Strategic communications: To coordinate all aspects and ongoing communications and PR activities of the organization into a big picture, map out clear objectives of each activity and how it can contribute to achieving business objectives.

Media relations: To build a network and relationship with the media to spread key messages to the target audience by sending newsworthy press releases and pitching interviews with relevant media outlets. 

Community relations: To build direct communication and engagement with the community or audience through owned channels, such as social media, websites, and blogs.

Internal communications: To address internal employees’ needs and concerns, as well as develop ongoing programs to keep staff engaged and loyal to the company.

Crisis communications: To prepare and plan for crisis management. Effective crisis management should be executed before it booms. You need to coordinate the people and map out plans so everyone understands what they need to do should a crisis explode. 

Public affairs: To build and develop relations between an organization and politicians, governments, and other decision-makers. This is a suitable position for those who are interested in the political system and the process of enacting legislative change. 

Online and social media communications: To establish a strong online presence to stand out from their competitors in the crowded online landscape. Customers nowadays often conduct online research before making a purchase decision, so online PR has become hugely important.

You can see that the PR industry is very diverse. For each group of the public (i.e., employees, government, media, online community, etc.), there is a distinctive branch of PR to tend to their needs and concerns. So whatever your strength is, there’s plenty of potential for career development.  

Where should a young person considering a career in PR start their education? Should they get a degree in communications? A degree in journalism? Can you explain what you mean?

PR and communications are not rocket science, so our industry is very diverse. We respect each person’s educational background, unique strengths, cultural values, and even the diversity of our clients’ sectors through various projects that we worked on. 

So those who have a degree in communications will understand the nature of PR. Those with journalism will have an insider look into the world of media and understand the media viewpoint better. But to be honest, we don’t limit people coming from other industries to join us, because there are always insights that they can contribute to the relevant campaigns.

You are known as a master networker. Can you share some tips on great networking?

I’d prefer calling it relationship building rather than networking, because relationship is at the core of our work and it’s a long-term investment. We build relationships with not only clients, media, or stakeholders, but also with our colleagues, fellow industry practitioners, seniors, and juniors. The purpose of building relationships is to establish mutual support and better synergy in our work. To build a good relationship, we need to understand what they need from us, what we need from them, and what we have in common. From there, we can spark a conversation and start building a long-term and supportive relationship. 

Lead generation is one of the most important aspects of any business. Can you share some of the strategies you use to generate good, qualified leads? 

We believe that good wine needs no bush. The focus of EloQ Communications is not on lead generation or networking, but on relationship building. In this industry, relationship is king. The broader your network is, the more you’ll increase your self-worth, and also the values that you can offer to clients. As EloQ continues to brilliantly support our clients in building their relationships with local stakeholders, we established our credibility in the industry, and more clients come to us for our service quality.

Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. Based on your opinion and experience, what are your “5 Things You Need To Create A Highly Successful Career As A Public Relations Pro” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)

If you want to have a successful PR career, there are many skills that a PR professional has to equip, but here are the five most important ones based on my experience: awareness of trends, passion for storytelling, strong relationships, flexibility, and personal branding.

I happened to have a video on this topic on my company’s Youtube channel. You can watch it here:

Because of the role you play, you are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I would advocate for student sponsorship. I’ve been sponsoring students through local programs called “Moto Hoc Bong” and “Nuoi Em” since 2015. These are funds that support students with their tuition, stipends and living support, as long as they stay in school. I don’t believe in one-time support because the impact is very limited. Instead of giving them short-term aid, I want to deliver sustainable and impactful support that can help them transform their lives. This can be done through education. The sponsorship opens up opportunities for them to pursue formal education, from there on, find a job and support their families. In the future, I believe that it will leave a lasting and positive impact on the overall well-being of our community. 

Actually, I want to thank you for asking me this question. This is a chance for me to advocate and call for people to join similar initiatives.

This was really meaningful! Thank you so much for your time.

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