What does it take to become the best of the best?

This question came to mind as I was reading a biography on one famous woman who was continually quoted as the master of public relations in the 20th century. However, she was never formally trained, had very little formal education, but had an innate sense and timing for controlling her image to great effect. It brought to mind whether the cream of the crop in public relations has those skills innately or whether those skills can be taught.

So what did she have that others did not?

There are the essential foundational skills to work in public relations: an ability to write well, a deep understanding of social media, experience with multimedia and an ability to pitch journalists. But there is also that magic mix – which few talk about – which separates the good from the great.

Here are four steps towards developing that magic mix:

Cultivate relationships. Not only with journalists but also with their editors. Arrange deskside editorial briefings, not just once, but ongoing to update on developments with your company and/or client.

Maintain persistent awareness of your brand image. It is critical to keep a day-to-day understanding of your company’s image. Be observant of media, social and the data underlying your coverage.

Monitor the industry and your competitor’s tactics. Be cognizant of how competitors are also perceived and the changing trends within your industry. Watch how your competitors or emerging companies use pr tactics to enhance their visibility. Don’t be afraid to adopt those or modify for your own use.

Maneuver within the media landscape. This is the magic mix that takes practice and also an innate sense of timing and a deep understanding of your brand story. Use your brand awareness and industry trend information to quickly identify innovative ways to maximize your brand’s exposure. Don’t be afraid to create the story. Tap into your relationships and be proactive not reactive.

The truly great are able to maneuver well and have a passion for staying in the game. I’ve seen many a public relations professional become more comfortable and relaxed the longer they are in the field. Fight against that and always seek new ways of positioning your company, your client or your own brand within the media conversation. Not only will you become more engaged, the media will start to see you as an effective source and will seek you out.

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