Guest post: 10 essential skills for the future PR practitioner
Recent graduate Jarrod Williams shares his view of 10 skills for anyone looking to make their mark in public relations. By Jarrod Williams
1. Confident, but not cocky. If you going to go somewhere in PR, you're going to need confidence. The confidence to shout out with your great campaign idea, your new way for streamlining a workflow, the confidence to say to your manager “I don't think that will work.”
2. Ability to learn and grow, because learning never ends. Something you learn soon after your first break is that the learning doesn't stop when you finish university; in fact it’s just beginning. Professional development only really starts when you start your first job. Even during an internship, a PR practitioner may only have experienced a sandboxed version of the industry. Keep learning and keep your mind open to new skills. The ability to advance, accept constructive criticism and understand what you can do to develop will mean you're always ahead of the game.
3. A broad knowledge base. This is something I recently told media students; in the future practitioners will need to mix it up and ensure they have a broad range of skills. You'll need to be able to film and edit video, capture and edit photos, handle multiple and emerging social media channels, update a website via a custom content management system (CMS), launch a blog site, and of course, write great copy. More and more we find integrated campaigns aren't just being run by one agency or department, but that every piece of campaign is created by a just a couple of individuals.
4. A content creator. The future practitioner needs to be more than just someone who connects the dots, but someone who creates the ideas and then realises those ideas in the content they produce. They need to develop something that starts conversations beyond just a press release, creating shareable and engaging content for social and web in-house. The use of movie-editing software should be staple skill, but so should the ability to know how to use that software for producing something worthwhile that meets objectives.
5. Become a community manager. I recently blogged on the six key points to take away from the CIPR’s social media conference, and something I noted was the shift from a practitioner simply aiming to start conversations, to the need to facilitate those conversations. Message has reasserted itself as king in a format where our audiences control direction and where our brands are part of the conversation. Future practitioners need to invest in direct social engagement and understand that the press may not always be the most effective contact method for the intended audience.
6. An innovative evaluator. Evaluation in pr is changing, be it the CIPR dropping AVEs for award submissions, or the introduction of the Barcelona principles, the future professional needs to find new and innovative ways of demonstrating return on investment to clients and boards. This will be essential in the future, as we find an increasing pressure on proving the commercial value of the work we do. It’s the difference between having a job and twiddling your thumbs.
7. A digital native press officer. Public relations practitioners entering the world of work need to be digital by default, thinking integrated and online with everything they do. I’m not just referring to managing social media and building websites though; we need to think how we can use web to enhance more traditional practices, ‘Media Relations 3.0’. The idea of a Twitter sell-in, or dropping the press release and making use of online news rooms to help a journalist piece together a story, rather than simply writing it for them and emailing it across. Dan Slee of Walsall Council has written a great blog on this topic.
8. Media and business awareness. Media and business awareness is the mixture of knowing exactly what a journalist wants, what’s interesting to them, how they want it, and in which direction their newsdesk is going, and combining that with how your clients/ business is moving forward. It means you’ll always be one step ahead of competitors, and you’ll build a relationship with journalists so they know they can rely on you to be relevant and timely. It also means you’ll be able to see the future changes to budgets and client demands and plan ahead, which will always impress.
9. Interpersonal skills. The ability to build relationships, mediate and connect people. PRs need to be able to build strong media contacts, network with people inside and outside of the industry and able to maintain strong relationships with clients and customers alike. You need to be able to get on with everyone and understand how to manage a professional relationship. This also works in your own teams; knowing what is acceptable to you co-workers, how to work with people who might do things differently to you and how to affectively project manage will all help you. These things will help you on the road to management, but can’t be taught. They need to be learnt the hard way, by making mistakes.
10. An appreciation of the traditional. Future PRs shouldn't give up on the good old paper and pen just yet. Anyone can be taught the ins and outs of Google Analytics, but we should always appreciate the place of core traditional qualities such as creativity, enthusiasm and commitment. Nothing replaces the skill of copywrighting, a grasp of the successful sell-in and the real ability to communicate, because that's what it comes down to in the end.
About the author Jarrod Williams is a Communications Specialist for Bromford, a leading affordable housing provider, and is a volunteer Media Communications Officer and social media manager for the Air Cadets. You can follow him on Twitter @jarrodwilliams.