5 Essential Qualities to Look For When Hiring an In-house Public Relations Director

By Mary Gendron Senior Vice President / Managing Director, Eric Mower & Associates | March 15, 2010

An effective public relations director can be worth his or her weight in gold in safeguarding a hotel's brand and image. But how do you find the right person? The challenge can be vexing, particularly if those doing the interviewing are new to this job category.

On the surface it would seem that the public relations director's job is to "get press" - print and broadcast publicity that will shed positive light on the hotel. In fact, the job is much more than that. In most hotels, the public relations director is the "go-to" person for a wide range of needs, including writing and editing (press releases, media alerts, invitations, speeches, etc.), event planning, hosting of media and hotel VIPs, photography, video production, and all manner of trouble shooting.

The most effective and successful in-house public relations directors bring to their positions a complex set of skills. Ideally, your public relations director should possess:

1. Excellent writing skills.
You need a versatile, facile writer who is long on clarity and short on flowery adjectives in describing your hotel and its various news and feature angles. The best communicators write like journalists, using the time honored method of putting the most important facts first, followed by useful, but less important, background information. Ask your candidate to send writing samples in advance or bring them to the interview. If you have any question about this aspect of the candidate's qualifications, provide a writing assignment - real or hypothetical -- and have them complete it at the time of the interview.

2. Strong verbal communications and listening skills.
Perhaps more than anyone in the hotel (besides the general manager), the public relations director needs to employ clear, concise verbal communication in a way that enlists the cooperation and support of all employees. Oftentimes, news angles are developed through specific departments and employees of the hotel. It is vital that the public relations director have a good ongoing rapport with everyone on staff, regardless of position, personality and background. Your public relations director needs to have direct access to people and information, and you need the comfort level that that individual communicates well and, in turn, gains the trust and respect of all employees. You can get a feel for your candidate's ability in this regard through the interview process. Pay special attention to the manner in which the candidate communicates. Is the style concise or verbose? Engaging or off-putting? Is this person a good listener or just a good talker? Imagine how that individual will be received by your department heads and staff members. Is this candidate likely to remain calm during a crisis?

3. Detail Orientation.
The in-house public relations director's job is typically busy and complex - there's always a lot going on at once, and one is often in various stages of completion on many projects. Moreover, this position requires the ability to balance proactivity with responsiveness to many "bosses", including hotel management, the media, and hotel guests. Critical to success is the ability to juggle tasks and pay attention to detail. To assess this quality, look at the approach taken to the job application and interview process. Is the resume letter perfect? How about the application? Is interview follow-up timely and appropriate? These are clues to this important aspect of the candidate's qualifications.

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