Thought Leadership

9 Things A-Plus PR People Have in Common

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This post is brought to you by AirPR, a proud sponsor of PRSA. Sharam Fouladgar-Mercer will be co-presenting a professional development session on “The New PR: The Science Behind What Works” on Monday, Oct. 9 at PRSA’s 2017 International Conference in Boston.

Public relations can be a thankless job. Sometimes you find that your entire workday disappears without ever getting to cross a task off your to-do list because you’ve been busy responding to incoming inquiries. Other days, you get about 15 seconds flat to celebrate a business win before it’s time to move on to that next piece of content.

We certainly don’t do it for the fame either. The best PR professionals I know work quietly behind the scenes. You hear about the companies they represent and their CEOs speak at the biggest, best conferences. All the while, the PR pro remains out of sight from the public view, instead acting as the connective tissue between the organization and the storytellers.

Given that AirPR is a PR technology company, we get a front-row seat to some of the best and brightest PR professionals in the industry, individuals who care deeply about whether or not their work is driving website traffic, sales and so forth.

To see what other characteristics A-plus PR professionals have in common, I sat down with my sales and customer success teams to get their take on the topic. Here are a few of the qualities they believe A-plus PR people have in common:

  1. They know PR measurement is the key to identifying what’s working well.

A-plus PR professionals understand that PR metrics are not about “grading” their work, but instead help them understand what is and isn’t working well for their brand. Even if it requires them to leave their comfort zones, A-plus PR professionals are interested in learning about which metrics can best help them measure the effectiveness of their strategies.

  1. They feel empowered by data, not fearful that the data will make them look bad.

A-plus PR professionals feel empowered by PR data and analytics because they know insights can be drawn even if the results of a specific campaign aren’t so positive. One common “hidden objection” we’ve discovered is the PR person’s fear of “looking bad” due to the data. But what they don’t realize is that even poor-performing content unveils valuable insights that can drive future strategies.

An A-plus PR professional isn’t afraid to “expose” their work with data because they know it will help them become more strategic in the end. The industry is moving from taking credit to taking action.

  1. They are diplomatic and the opposite of territorial.

A-plus PR professionals are diplomatic and understand how to play well with others in order to drive meaningful business outcomes. This requires active listening and openness to diverse ideas.

A-plus PR professionals are not territorial either, instead striving toward collaboration and understanding, even if it means allowing someone from another team to take the reins on a project that technically falls under PR.

  1. They “think like marketers” in terms of how to prove ROI to the C-suite.

A-plus PR professionals understand that in order to get a seat at the decision-making table (and the ear of budgetary decision makers like the CMO), they must think like marketers. This requires them to identify the most effective PR metrics to use when measuring their work so they can demonstrate value and justify PR spends to the C-suite.

  1. They “zoom out” and frequently ask themselves: “What is the goal of this campaign?”

A-plus PR professionals want to know their leaders’ expectations around how public relations should impact the business as a whole, but they don’t get stuck in activity metrics based on arbitrary mandates.

Instead, A-plus PR professionals ask questions until they have a strong understanding of organizational end goals. Does the CEO expect public relations to drive website traffic? Is the goal of throwing an industry event to secure at least 10 demo sign-ups?

  1. They provide analytics for their work, even when it’s not required.

PR professionals are not yet held to the same measurement standards as marketing. This will inevitably change over time as corporations continue to focus on measuring everything, because you truly can’t manage what you can’t measure (as the adage goes).

Today’s A-plus PR professionals strive to show performance data for their work, even if their bosses don’t yet require them to do so. They dig into the data and try to find meaningful insights about why a piece of content drove significant action so they can replicate that success again.

  1. They are innately creative.

There are some things that can be taught, such as how to use data and analytics to prove the value of your work. But there are others that are not taught as easily. Recently, Adidas partnered with lifestyle publication Refinery29 for a charity project where women artists designed 50 different UltraBOOST X sneakers. Each of the sneakers represents a U.S. state, resulting in a ton of entertaining earned-media features. The photos of these shoes are pure eye candy, and the creativity behind this campaign is undeniable.

A-plus PR professionals study which types of stories perform well in publications catered to their audiences and employ creativity to produce stories the world can’t wait to read.

  1. They have a get-it-done attitude.

While A-plus PR professionals are strategic and thoughtful, they are also experts at making things happen quickly so opportunities are not lost. This is required in the fast-paced world of public relations. At the same time, they are realistic when setting expectations around timing and needed resources with their C-suite teams, customers and clients.

  1. They set up the organization in a way that allows for data-driven decision making.

It is no longer enough just to hire a PR agency and tell them to use the “right” metrics. A-plus PR professionals also ensure that their organizations have a process in place for leveraging insights and putting recommendations into action.

This could be as simple as making sure someone is tasked with owning data and insight implementation including presenting the data and proposed strategy shifts to a greater group on a regular basis. A-plus PR teams are empowered to act on insights drawn from results, not just report results to the group.

So, what qualities do you think cutting-edge PR practitioners embody?


Thanks Andrew, Matt, Rebekah and Scott from my team for contributing thoughts to this piece!

Sharam Fouladgar-Mercer is co-founder and CEO of AirPR, a PRTech company helping businesses showcase the impact of their PR efforts through streamlined public relations measurement software.

About the author

Sharam Fouladgar-Mercer


  • Great article – thanks for summarizing some critical PR skills. I’d add that many of these are exactly what is learned, nurtured and reinforced by earning the Accreditation in Public Relations (APR), our PR industry credential. #ItTakesAPRo

  • This was a great read. As a senior majoring in PR, I appreciate all tips on how to be successful in the professional world. I liked your point on being empowered by data. It is important to evaluate and know what worked or what did not work for your campaign. – Hyland Stockton, Platform Magazine Editor/Writer

  • Well-done article! If anyone aspires to be this kind of professional, they really need to join PRSA and get their public relations accreditation, which teaches these principles and many more that are needed to be an A-Plus professional. Michelle Baker, APR

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