The 3 Traits Public Relations Professionals Need to Succeed

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We’ve all read the statistics. There are now six PR professionals for every journalist. For every campaign, project, or announcement you send to a journalist, six others have done the same that day. At the least—some journalists who excel with engagement and reach receive far more pitches from PR pros than that. 

That, combined with an overall sense in the industry that PR is getting harder, and you have a dilemma. How can I succeed in an industry that’s becoming more challenging year after year? 

In a new study, we collaborated with the team at BuzzStream scraped the Twitter profiles of 29 leading PR professionals to learn more about the personality traits that lead these influencers to success. While each leader had a different set of qualities and even very diverse careers, there were 10 traits that nearly every professional scored highly for.

What are the key traits PR pros should focus on emulating in order to find career success in the industry?

There are three traits that stood out to me among the rest. These traits I’ve been able to recognize in myself and my colleagues at times, as well as some of the leaders in the industry I look up to. These traits are Adventurousness, Achievement-striving, and Authority-challenging.


IBM Watson defines adventurousness as an eagerness to try new activities and the willingness to experiment. I believe that all pr professionals are a little bit adventurous to a certain degree. With PRs vying for the media’s attention, you have to be creative to stand out. 

Being adventurous does not mean throwing spaghetti (or apples) at the wall to see what sticks. It means thinking about how you can take your message and spin it in such a way that journalists would get curious. If they want to learn more, chances are their audience will want to learn more, too. 

Marsha Wright, CEO of scored the highest for having Adventurous as a quality in the study. A high school drop out to successful entrepreneur and investor, her rags to riches story is anything but conventional. She describes her PR business, PromoNation, as a disrupter in the marketing space. There’s no question to why she scored so highly for Adventurousness—it should be her middle name. 

Achievement Striving / Driven

It’s undeniable that PR professionals need to be achievement-striving  in order to find a place for their content in the ever-changing, fast-paced world of news journalism. The top PR leaders are driven; their desire to be recognized as successful keeps them on track as they work hard to accomplish their goals. And goals they have. With dozens of metrics and measures of success out there, PRs are subject to evaluating their results on a client by client, campaign by campaign, and even a day by day basis. 

Being achievement-striving does not mean working yourself to the bone and competing against your colleagues for the biggest slice of the promo pie. Your success in the industry largely depends on your ability to learn from others. No junior PR exc can be expected to get very far without working towards achieving a breadth and depth of education and experience. 

Deirdre Breakenridge, CEO of Pure Performance, scored very highly for being one of the most driven digital PR professionals on our list. It’s clear she places a high value on education, being a linkedin instructor, podcaster, and founder of #PRStudChat. Hosting a Twitter chat all about collaboration and learning from each other proves she has made helping other PRs achieve success a top priority in her mission. 

Authority Challenging

While authority-challenging may not seem like a good trait to work towards when you’re just starting out your career as a junior pr executive, it actually doesn’t mean what it sounds like. It’s not about constantly questioning your boss or manager. Someone who is authority-challenging is willing to challenge conventional and traditional values.

This is arguably the most important trait to possess as a PR professional. There is more noise out there today than ever in human history. If you have a message you want to get out to the public, you have to be willing to try new things and be creative.

Think there’s a better way to write a press release than the template you’ve been given since day one? Or maybe you think the standard press release is dead or doesn’t work for your current project. Challenge convention and be creative. 

Earning coverage is harder than ever before, so a willingness to challenge protocol and think outside the box will take your career to the next level. Michele Linn, co-founder of Mantis Research, challenges assumptions with data. Mantis Research helps marketers tell stories backed by data using original research.


If these leaders show us anything, it’s that you can succeed in a competitive space like digital pr. If you’re willing to challenge convention, think outside the box, and are driven by your own desire to succeed, there’s no reason you can’t become a top digital PR in 2020 and beyond. Just remember these 10 personality traits the next time you’re faced with a tough challenge at work, and the odds are in your favor!

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Domenica D'Ottavio

Domenica D'Ottavio is the Brand Relationship Manager at Fractl, a boutique growth agency based in Delray Beach, FL. When she’s not musing over the latest developments in content and PR, you can find her planning her next international trip, likely over a bowl of risotto.

Disclaimer: The author's views are entirely their own, and don't necessarily reflect the opinions of BuzzStream.

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