This post is part of The Plank Center’s Legacies from Legends in PR Series that was begun in recognition of the 40th Anniversary of the Public Relations Student Society of America in 2007.
Founded, Richard Weiner, Inc. Authored 23 books, including “Webster’s New World Dictionary of Media and Communications” and “Professional’s Guide to Public Relations Services.” Taught the first PR course for MBA students at Fordham University. His public relations firm specialized in marketing communications, including launch of the Cabbage Patch Kids. Received eight Silver Anvils and a Gold Anvil (1990) from the Public Relations Society of America.
What are the prerequisite for a successful career in public relations? Based on my decades of experience in the field, here is my list of five essentials.
- Curiosity. As with journalists, you should be interested in the world in which we live. More than interested–fascinated. If you are narrow in your interests, your ability to communicate will be hindered. Wondering can be wonderful.
- Enthusiasm. If you are dull and lackluster, you will not be able to communicate effectively with your employers, clients, the media or anyone else. Passion can be healthy, and it enhances creativity.
- Integrity. Our work involves advocacy and compromise. But honesty still is paramount.
- Writing skills. It’s regrettable that some college graduates are semi-literate. Grammar and spelling errors abound. Alliteration, similes, metaphors and figures of speech can add spark to a news release, speech and other writing.
- Education. The art of persuasion is developed from psychology, anthropology, sociology and other social sciences. These subjects are as important as journalism and mass communication in your education.
I believe that my success has been achieved with a good dose of these qualities. I also have been helped by many people. Bill Ruder was my mentor when I worked at the Ruder Finn public relations firm. I am privileged to have a wife who has been my biggest booster and most insightful critic. I am thankful to many others, of course.
I also am fortunate to be in good health. This year, I’ve been tied to my computer in the research and writing of my 24th book. The 10-hour workdays have been exhilarating rather than exhausting. So, I give thanks to my parents for my genetic endowment. I also thank Google, Wikipedia, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and other daily companions.
Incidentally, I have had many failures. The cliche is that one learns from failures. It’s true. And yes, I have had a few successes. My public relations firm, Richard Weiner, Inc., launched Cabbage Patch Kids, a campaign that has been praised in public relations and marketing textbooks. The strategy of parental responsibility in the “adoption” of the Kids was based on the counsel of psychologists whom we retained.
Another client was Clairol. When I first started working for this company, our goal was to make hair coloring (it once was called hair dye) a commonly accepted cosmetic. We were successful. One of our notable campaigns was the promotion of hairdressers as artists.
During the last few years, a new medium has evolved into the most significant development in communications since the 15th century invention of movable type to print books. The new medium is the blog. More than 70 million blogs now exist. Some are personal diaries, but others are news and gossip sites that are instantly transmitted to many millions of people around the world. Blogs are the epitome of free speech and democracy.
The New York Times Magazine recently called me “the media maven.” The new media are one of the reasons that I am enthusiastic about the public relations field.