A View on Skills for the PR Professional of Tomorrow

picture-1Through my favorite podcast, For Immediate Release, I discovered a very well thought-out and presented blog post by John Bell of Ogilvy PR’s Digital Team. John, like myself, is adjunct faculty (he works at Johns Hopkins and I at Georgetown), so I was particularly interested in hearing his take on what skills public relations practitioners — excuse me — “successful public relations practitioners” need to have now and beyond. As this is the my first week of class, the timing could be no better.

I have posted his list below along with the links to other posts and sources of information because this has been an ongoing piece of work for John — and one that is well done.  I have also added a couple of ideas of my own.  So, here goes:

“13 Skills of the PR Pro of the Future

  1. Create integrated marketing and communications strategy
  2. Deploy live ‘listening posts’ online and offline
  3. Design and deploy an advanced search engine optimization program
  4. Plan and run a new media relations program inclusive of head-of-the-tail and long tail “media”
  5. Identify & engage with influencers online and offline
  6. Manage communities
  7. Integrate new technologies into their own lives
  8. Model measurement and performance metrics including new “engagement” metrics
  9. Run quick pilot programs and evaluate on-the-fly
  10. Train staff and clients continuously
  11. Participate in conversations, not just ‘messaging’
  12. Create and execute content strategy including video programming (hifi and lowfi)
  13. Use digital crisis management

Thanks to Nate Pagel, Rohit Bhargava, Virginia Miracle, Kaitlyn Wilkins, Brian Giesen, Chris Brogan, Chi-chi Ekweozor, John D. , Phil M., Harro and Brendan Hodgson for ideas and insights on this list.

If you know #14 – please add it as the list will always be changing.”

Ok.  So here’s my take — I can suggest a #14 and and a #15 that I discovered from 15 years on the agency side and four years of teaching.

14. Writing. The ability to tell a story, to convince someone of a point of view, to enchant someone with prose about your product all require mastery of the written word. Good writing is not just “Subject, verb, object,” it is organizing your thoughts into a pattern that engages readers.  If your are in the public relations business either pitching, reporting to a client or even communicating internally, you must have this skill set to survive and prosper. I would almost be tempted to put this as #1, simply because if you can’t write, you can’t do most of the other tasks on the list.

15. Critical thinking. In my experience, an excellent public relations practitioner is quite often a good problem-solver. He/she is one who is, on almost a daily basis, presented with challenges and issues that need to get resolved or fixed. The ability to think about a problem, a challenge or an opportunity for you, your organization or your client are part-and-parcel with the ability to think critically – to dissect a problem, an issue, carefully think about potential solutions or opportunities, consider other points of view, think about consequences and then arrive (quickly, quite often) at a decision or a proposed solution.

Those are my two contributions to what I think is an excellent read.

Mark

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Comments

  1. David Sanchez Says: January 14, 2009 at 8:56 am

    #14 and #15 are right on spot Mark, thank you.

  2. Keith Parent Says: January 14, 2009 at 12:54 pm

    Something I found intriguing about our list is that it outlines the evolution of PR as a practice that seems to be traveling in a more efficient direction. John’s discussion of traditional vs. new influencers is one that highlights how democratic the internet makes things. Communication and Public Relations are made universal regardless of one’s social status. John does mention the misconception that niche influencers provide unqualified or poor information. He counters this idea by saying the information is more reliable because “the internet fuels a new meritocracy where everyday people can develop scientific solutions.”

    How exactly do these two scenarios work out in the favor of reliable information? Does it depend on reputation or can even the most reputable niche influencers be tainted by those monitoring or in control? What makes it the site and what doesn’t can make the difference. Are uncensored niche communicators the most or least accurate tools for PR professionals?

  3. Erinn Dumas Says: January 15, 2009 at 9:16 am

    I think the list is great, but I think the title is off. The says “13 Skills of the PR Pro of the Future”, but the future is now. I’m not PR professional yet; however, I believe the list encompasses skills that PR Professionals need now!

  4. Kevin Kaveski Says: January 15, 2009 at 2:00 pm

    I like the text of 13 skills, I think some are closely linked and might overlap each other.

    The picture with percentages at the top, looks visually appealing, but makes me wonder:
    1) Where they came up with the percentages
    2) How you can research be allocated 10 % and strategy 20%, when they are so closely intertwined?

    Would the ability to adapt and adopt niche skills or aspects of PR be a desirable skill in its own?

  5. Shakirah Hill Says: January 16, 2009 at 1:40 pm

    I found this post to be an interesting read. As an up and coming publicist or public relations professional I think it is very important to master some of these tips. The tips that stuck out the most to me are: “create intergrated marketing and communications strategy”. I totally agree with this concept because I believe that in this wave of new media, it is inevitable that marketing and public relations go hand in hand. As a publicist it is essentially your responsiblity to influence the way the public views your client, but as we move into social media and new media publicist are no longer influencing public opinion, they are driving it. Thus, as drivers we have to master how disseminate information to the masses and how we want them to recieve that information.

    “Participate in conversations not just messaging” I thought this was a great point to note and I think that overlooking this idea can be detrimental for any public relations professional. Sending out a message is not enough. It is key to open dialogue with the public regarding a client or an issue. If we just send out messages with no open dialogue we leave those messages hanging to be misinterpreted. As fast as news travels there is no room for misinterpretation.

    Lastly, I could not agree anymore with professor Story, about “writing”. Writing is such an effective and useful tool that so few know how to master.If we are the drivers and public relations is our bus, then writing is the engine. We cannot go any where without a working engine. The ability to clearly, concisely, and coherently put thoughts and ideas on to paper is the foundation of communication. If we cannot master the art of writing-and not just any type of writing, but good solid writing then we do no justice to our clients.

  6. Raquel Fuentes Says: January 16, 2009 at 2:25 pm

    I thought the list was thorough and insightful. I clicked through some of the items and they made sense, but I’m sure some of it went right over my head. If I read this again at the end of the semester, I’ll read it in a different light and, most likely, get more out of it then.

    He talks about having an understanding of marketing and SEO to become a successful PR person. It makes me feel that PR is not rocket science, I just have to learn a different skill set with marketing as a solid foundation.

    Items 1-13 all start with a verb in the present tense. While I agree with Marks points, items 14 and 15 are not consistent with John Bell’s writing style. “Writing” and “Critical” are not verbs in the present tense. Maybe we could say “write well” and “think critically”. Sorry to be so picky.

  7. Catherine Avery Says: January 18, 2009 at 10:25 am

    After reading through the skill set of the tools for the future of the PR pro, I started thinking back to my corporate communications course from last semester. In that course, we spent a significant amount of time discussing the value of having C-suite by-in of the ideas and practices of public relations and corporate communications’ professionals. If there is no buy-in from these executives, then there is little funding and support of these job functions. As PR professional, John Bell stresses the value of the C-suite buy-in because he understands the relationship between corporate executives and PR professionals.

    While the 13+ skills demonstrate the need for PR professionals to incorporate new practices and trends of communications, there is also the need to educate the C-suite of the value of the change in the direction and future of public relations.

    In order for PR professionals to successfully incorporate the 13+ skill set, it is in imperative that the C-suite supports and understands the ever-changing world of communications.

  8. Zhazira Bukina Says: January 18, 2009 at 2:14 pm

    What struck me when I read the blog post by John Bell was his thoughts that PR professional need to be better than average at the fundamentals of advertising and marketing and need to know how to create integrated marketing and communication strategy. As a novice in PR sphere, I was thinking that writing skills is what you need to survive and prosper in PR business. I agree on this point with Mark Story that if you can’t write, you can’t do most of the other tasks on the list. Nevertheless, John’s assumption about importance of integrated marketing and communication strategy is the #1 skill for the PR professional, simply because you can be a perfect writer, but with the wrong and dull strategy during any PR activities you will fail your mission. Wrong strategy perfectly written and executed is nothing but wasting of papers and time. So, understanding what is strategy and the ability to distinguish strategy from ordinary planning is the most important skill for the PR managers.

  9. Kevin Kaveski Says: January 18, 2009 at 11:52 pm

    Reading through the different “skills,” Creating Integrated Marketing and Communications Strategy strikes me as the most important.

    I believe the (3) main I-beams of strategy are extremely practical. I will explain how it relates to my job (lobbying).

    1) Business objectives – this usually has something to do with sales or reputation.

    Understanding exactly what your objective is provides focus. I work in lobbying (earmarks), my objective is to gain funding for our client’s by convincing members of Congress and their staff that my client’s projects are important and deserve funding.

    2) Communication goal – what is that measurable activity that will demonstrate progress towards your business objective.

    The measurable activity in my firm is the amount of funding gained for our clients.

    3) Strategy – this is the overarching “how” you will move the needle on the communication goals.

    Many lobbying firms face problems when trying to figure out “how” they will make the needle move on the communications goals. There are many restrictions on how to interact with Congressional offices in regards to gifts, buying lunch, drinks and friendships.

    Developing an effect communication strategy with member offices allows lobbyists to have the desired relationship without breaking any laws. The firms that are able to develop strong strategies will be successful as restrictions tighten on lobbyists.

  10. Felicia Akoh Says: January 20, 2009 at 8:21 pm

    This blog is really good especially for Public Relations practitioners or aspiring Public Relations like me.John Bell’s 13 skills are very educative and give an insight on what the profession demands.

    Also,i think the skils for the PR Pro could have not been complete without Mark’s #14 and #15.For a message which is not organized and clear cannot be properly conveyed and therefore you would be able to persuade your audience or stakeholders.

  11. Felicia Akoh Says: January 20, 2009 at 8:25 pm

    This blog is really good especially for Public Relations practitioners or aspiring Public Relations practitioners like me.John Bell’s 13 skills are very educative and give an insight on what the profession demands.

    Also,i think the skills for the PR Pro could have not been complete without Mark’s #14 and #15.For a message which is not organized and clear cannot be properly conveyed and therefore you would not be able to persuade your audience or stakeholders.

  12. I have little to no experience in PR, but after reading the post I was able to gain a better understanding of the standards and expectations of “Great” PR professionals. I cannot agree nor disagree, but just absorb the information given. Understanding the core foundation of PR is extremely important for me at this stage. I do agree with Story, writing should be one of the top five components of skills for PR professionals. Thinking critically is also an important aspect, because as a PR Professional we must stay current with information, our competition and on global trends. With that being said, we must also be able to think strategically and innovatively. The media may very much so influence our ideas, but I believe it is extremely important to challenge assumptions and look beyond the obvious.

    The concept of creating integrated marketing and communications strategy was very intriguing. Acquiring the fundamentals of marketing will definitely put PR professionals above the average. Learning more about strategy, marketing and the integration is something I am looking forward to learning more about.

  13. “A View on Skills for the PR Professional of Tomorrow” was perfect for our first week of class, as it gives students a quick glance of the skills we are expected to master as PR professionals. Although the title states “tomorrow”, the skills listed in the blog post are for today’s PR professional. One only needs to look at current job openings for PR professionals to see that potential employers expect candidates who have mastered all 15 skills listed by John Bell and Mark Story.

    Except for writing, which should be number one, I don’t believe the skills listed should be placed in any particular order. As I have learned from personal experience, each skill comes together and makes other skills stronger, and thus making a stronger PR professional. For example, when I first moved to DC my boss asked me to include section for Search Engine Optimization (SEO) to our Web site’s marketing plan we were developing. I had to learn SEO quickly. I signed up for seminars, read articles and even bought the book “SEO for Dummies” and hated every minute of it. Yet, today I use SEO not just to optimize web sites, but also videos and press releases – skills that set me apart from my colleagues at the agency.

  14. Alicja M. Patela Says: January 21, 2009 at 9:35 am

    I enjoyed reading this post, but more importantly, I really liked how these “essential” skills were broken down for the reader. Clearly, a professional in this field must be able to understand all these skills and incorporate them into the daily work environment. In a field, where changes are inevitable and occur at a fast pace, it is crucial to keep up with such changes in order to succeed. Mike’s description of skill # 15 is very informative, I believe that “critical thinking” is vital to a PR professional but thinking is not merely enough. A successful PR professional must process, analyze, and understand the information, and then have the ability to integrate this whole thinking process to the appropriate situation. Actions must be derived from successful and thorough critical thinking. I am also glad that Mark posted “writing” as a skill because I think that people sometimes forget that this is the “essential” skill. In both of my classes, both professors have stressed that writing skills are fundamental, there is simply no getting around in this field without mastering this skill.

  15. Alicja Patela Says: January 21, 2009 at 9:43 am

    I enjoyed reading this post, but more importantly, I really liked how these “essential” skills were broken down for the reader. Clearly, a professional in this field must be able to understand all these skills and incorporate them into the daily work environment. In a field, where changes are inevitable and occur at a fast pace, it is crucial to keep up with such changes in order to succeed. Mike’s description of skill # 15 is very informative, I believe that “critical thinking” is vital to a PR professional but thinking is not merely enough. A successful PR professional must process, analyze, and understand the information, and then have the ability to integrate this whole thinking process to the appropriate situation. Actions must be derived from successful and thorough critical thinking. I am also glad that Mark posted “writing” as a skill because I think that people sometimes forget that this is the “essential” skill. In both of my classes, both professors have stressed that writing skills are fundamental, there is simply no getting around in this field without mastering this skill.

  16. Tzu-Ying(Daisy) Chen Says: January 21, 2009 at 12:59 pm

    I never had those insightful thoughts since I became involved in the practice of PR. Those skills are applicable to what the PR professional will be confronted with in the ever-changing world of social media. Most of them are extremely novel to me, as practicing PR in my country primarily deals with offline matters. The main reason is because of the low percentage of new technology users and the demographical majority of teenagers in Taiwan.

    First of all, I am definitely impressed with #1 since I am taking another course – Communication Research, in which we discuss some research tools that are used to measure, analyze and support communication planning. The truth is that if creating a strategy of integrated marketing communications becomes more and more important, thorough research and subsequent insights are inevitably required to propose plausible and convincing statements.

    I cannot help but think about another point about #2; when new social media, such as blogs, Youtube and Facebook, become overwhelmingly popular, chances are that we may pay more attention to conversations in online communities. The question is how PR practitioners strike a balance, concerning much flow of information, between offline and online PR. Which one is more effective to build live “listening posts?”

    Finally, with regard to my #14 suggestion, I would like to say that to manage the spontaneous difficulties brought by new social media, like maintaining the quality of PR planning, is a difficult task. For example, spams ubiquitously pop into everyone’s e-mails. It has been a serious problem since the Internet prevailed. PR practitioners cannot escape from natural difficulties like spam, but are able to get rid of them when dealing with issues of online PR.

  17. Sunaina Bhatnagar Says: January 21, 2009 at 2:02 pm

    Being new to the field of public relations, I think that this list is extremely helpful and can serve as a valuable guide for beginners. I will definitely be referring to these steps when I find a job in the field. With that said, I think those who are aleady in the field can also learn a great deal from the recommendations in the list.

    One step that I would like to add to the list is to “know” your audience and the media. I think it’s very important for PR professionals to understand who it is they are trying to reach. A thorough knowledge of the kinds of people that need to be targeted with messaging is essential.

    A way to ensure that the right people will be exposed to your message and products/services is to make proper use of magazines, newspapers and TV newscasts/shows. Doing some research to find out which reporters and publications do a good job of covering certain issues will save a lot of time and money. A reporter that covers a relevant beat or a publication or TV show with a related segment can be great assets. Identifying the right medium and personalities can go a long way in helping PR professionals find success.

  18. Jacqueline Sibanda Says: January 21, 2009 at 2:12 pm

    I can suggest a #16 and that is editing. Communication is moving closer to the two-way model than ever before so it is important to leave room for a dialogue or conversation as mentioned in John’s piece. Writing is key and editing or choosing what to include, or not as the case may be, is just as important. We live in a time of constant demand on people to read this or that. I tend to read short items on the go and procrastinate on longer items “until I get time to sit down and read this.” Communicators must edit, edit and edit some more to be heard or read.

    Secondly, when I registered for my classes I debated for a while on taking this class or Media Relations and Messaging which is at the time on the same day. I made a conscious decision to go with digital because I felt that media is not as important as it used to be. I’m glad to see that John agrees and has Media third after Digital and Strategy in the breakdown of essential skills.

  19. Alec Jeffries Says: January 21, 2009 at 2:26 pm

    To condense the fundamental skills of a public relations professional is a bold challenge. In my opinion, Mr. Bell’s thoughtful integration of techniques outline a harmonious checklist for the developing PR specialist. However, the importance of timeliness is understated. The ability to quickly react, educate, analyze and implement solutions in a dynamic and fluctuating industry is essential. Through my professional experience as a corporate analyst, I have learned that a well-organized time management system is beneficial. With speed comes responsibility. Luckily, technology allows for accelerated education and communication practices in both the offline and online PR contexts.

  20. Sunaina Bhatnagar Says: January 21, 2009 at 2:32 pm

    Being new to the field of public relations, I found this list to be very helpful and an excellent guide for beginners. When I begin working in the industry, I will definitely refer back to these guidelines. With that said, I think those already in the field can also learn a great deal by practicing these principles.

    One thing I would like to add to the list is the importance of “knowing” your audience and the media. What I mean by this is that it’s extremely beneficial for successful PR professionals to understand who it is they need to reach with their messaging. This is everything from demographics to lifestyles to interests, et. al, that can help filter a message so it reaches the right audience.

    An easy way to filter the messaging is to research both local and national media outlets to find those that can help your cause. This can be in all forms, from the Internet to print to TV. Finding a reporter with a relevant beat, or a publication/tv show, which devotes a related segment can be important resources. With the right outlets and personalities, a message will reach its intended audience.

  21. sakshi jain Says: January 22, 2009 at 2:39 pm

    As the various disciplines of Marketing, Branding and Public Relations/Communications continue along the path of convergence (versus the diverging efforts of individual departments working in silos), it seems only natural that the future of Public Relations lies in the synergy of old world, sound business practices (ROI’s, creative briefs, CRM’s) with new media technologies and channels (Web 2.0, social media, SEO’s) to create the most effective, robust and relevant PR/Marketing strategy for your organization. I concur that effective writing skills and the ability to think critically are the cornerstone of the PR field – in fact, these skills are the foundation upon which an effective campaign can be built.

    The remaining 13 skills listed focus on new media centric aptitudes; the ability to identify and engage with influencers online and offline, to design/deploy SEO programs and to create multimedia content are just a few of the tools PR professionals must use to communicate with and/or influence the modern-day target audience. Whereas the media strategies of yesterday fed information to a more passive audience, today’s tech-savvy consumer is more interactive and knowledgeable, a fact poignantly captured last week after flight 1549 crash-landed in the Hudson river: the first reports and photos came from a rescuer aboard a boat en route to the scene – he used twitter to alert the world.

    Thus, the PR professional of the future will be more actively involved with the target audience, using the same tools the users utilize to convey messaging strategies that are media rich – blogs, videos and other interactive vessels will create a dynamic exchange where the final product (never final) is developed as much by the intended user as it is by the PR professional.

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