The PR scenario has changed significantly over the years. We are in the digital era and online communities and relationships are part of the Public Relations function. It’s hard to ignore the emerging importance of blogs, the impact that online conversations can have on brands. There is a gradual decline of traditional media and skill sets that new PR professionals need, and what’s more, they have evolved too.
Communication profession is more dynamic
Communication profession is more dynamic today, than it has ever been, says Arpana Kumar Ahuja, Chief Growth Officer at PR Pundit. With the shifting media landscape, the influence of audience preferences, expectations and a plethora of channels and digital tools, PR professionals have to continuously evolve. Moreover, she observes that the lines between marketing, advertising and PR have blurred, as have the lines between journalism and brand/organization generated content.
PR as a discipline has changed. Writing, pitching, storytelling alone is not enough in the industry today. In an era of clicks, short attention spans and a wide choice of communication channels, those working in PR need to grasp expertise in new areas (outside the purview of traditional PR). These emerging skill sets are important to ensure that PR contributes where it really counts – to impact bottom lines of businesses.
Some desirable traditional skills
The rules have changed but PR professionals still need the basic skills and attributes. So, professionals entering the PR business, need to be proficient at many things. To start with, writing skill is a must, so, brush up your writing skills; learn the art of writing news releases. Communication skills are important, so learn to communicate more effectively with people. You must pay attention to detail – check and check facts. Dig deep into media relations and master it, as this will be your focus throughout the major part of your career. Understand the basics – what’s in a media list or what are the best pitching practices to journalists. Be proactive – if you don’t know an answer to a question, research for answers and don’t just wait for the deadline to hit you!
Accept the work ethic, for PR is not a 9-to-5 job. Go the extra mile and people will notice!
New skills that need to be picked up
Apart from the regular attributes, the PR professional should ideally look at some new attributes related to the online work. Some added skills should be developed.
- Go easy during a crisis
With so many corporate reputation dents or crises recently, it goes without saying that managing crisis is becoming a core executive skill for PR professionals.
When a crisis strikes, damage to corporate reputation is often an expensive fallout. If a PR professional can manage to keep his/her cool in a crisis and develop a swift and strategic plan to manage the situation – this is invaluable. If stakeholders don’t trust a company, they won’t buy its products or services.
- Have a digital strategy in place
Digital channels and social media are no longer ‘new media’ – they are simply part of the evolving landscape within which today’s PR industry operates. While PR has always been about storytelling, this is even more critical across social media.
It’s much more than just knowing your way around Facebook. A holistic PR professional needs to be able to map a digital communications strategy, execute and analyse results and demonstrate a deep knowledge of digital channels.
Changes in technology and the ways in which people communicate and obtain information mean that a PR professional should be on the move always. It is imperative for a PR professional to continually learn about new trends and work out which channel is best to not only tell stories, but also engage with their target audience.
Know what ‘Blogging’ is all about, understand the nuances of blogger relations. Be familiar with social networking tools like Facebook, Twitter, MySpace LinkedIn, Plaxo and more. Attached to this is awareness of social media ethics – everyone draws their own lines here, when it comes to ethics. You should know exactly where you should draw the line and how you feel about topics like astroturfing, ghost blogging or it could be trolling someone for a particular point of view! You should also pick up the basics of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) as it is highly valuable.
- Big Data: get the picture
New roles are popping up in firms which will lead to more comprehensive, targeted PR campaigns. Before big data emerged, PR professionals made informed estimates about audience demographics, interests and perhaps a sample-sized survey was conducted.
But today, it’s important for PR professionals must become more proficient in interpreting data so they can harness its potential for their clientele. It will help mould the right message for the right audience through the right media, resulting in more effective PR campaigns.
The final word: keep yourself updated
While the core skills in PR will remain, the media industry has evolved and the PR role must evolve with it. The top 3 skills required today, according to Arpana Ahuja are –“speed to information, quick reactions, digital knowledge and ability to understand data for insights”.
The PR professional needs to stay ahead of the curve for the best professionals are agile, adaptable and always learning and developing new skills. Now, you may be stronger in some of these areas, so figure out which are your weak points, and work on them. Now, go for it!