There is always much discussion about the kind of skills PR practitioners need, whether these are gained through education or experience and indeed, how PR skills needs are changing as the communications landscape changes.
A few prerequisites are generally agreed:
- PR practitioners need to be news-aware, keeping ahead of current trends and issues, so have an interest in all forms of media
- PR practitioners must be confident talking to a wide range of people, because you will no doubt encounter them all, and then some, so have good verbal and written communication skills
- PR practitioners need to be good organisers and have the ability to multi-task and time-manage, so be able to organise your workload in order to meet strict deadlines
This list is often added to with personal qualities such as creativity, intuition, tenacity and tact. There are then more business-minded skills that are needed such as team-working, finance (budget management and maths competency), research and analysis, and the ability to counsel those in senior management. There are probably countless more, depending on who is hiring you.
But I’ve missed a glaringly obvious point haven’t I?
And it seems, so have most individuals, further education institutions and even some employers – digital communications.
Recent research conducted by the PR Academy showed that digital communications is the top skills gap amongst PR professionals (with 52% of respondents identifying it as such). The top spot was swiftly followed by strategic planning (46%) and measurement (44%).
These figures aren’t surprising. Digital communications was emerging when most of us “in the biz” were studying or entering the industry. A lot of what we know is self-taught. Strategic planning is something you rarely get to do in-house or in-agency until you’re in a senior role, and if you get the chance before then, you’re normally on your own; winging it. As for measurement, well we’re all still on the learning curve to getting that right!
I for one am being proactive. I’m going to SEO training so that I understand the importance of search rankings and website keywords, as well as how to improve my blogging skills. Some day, a clever employer is going to ask me to evidence more than merely the ability to use Facebook.
Because in this day and age, you’ve got to be part-artist, part-scientist!