Key Skills for Public Relations

Public relations (PR) isn’t an easy job. It seems like every year there is more we need to know to do our jobs. It’s hard to keep up sometimes. It’s no wonder that many businesses turn over their PR activities to an agency. It’s enough to run a business but to have to keep up on every communication channel and why and how to use it is a full-time job in itself. This still doesn’t even cover all the skills that a PR pro needs to be successful.

There are many skills that we should have but I am going to talk about four: Research, strategic thinking, data measurement and analysis, and writing. These are four important skills I feel like the modern communicator needs to have to be successful.

Research

Without doing the proper research, we aren’t going to be successful. It starts with understanding the goals of the client. If we don’t have that information, the game is already over. But, it’s more than that. We need to do an audit of the client. We need information such as:

What communication activities has the client been involved in?
What kind of results have they got in the past?
Who is the competition?

We need to know information about our audience:

Who are we trying to reach?
How old are they?
What sex are they?
How much money do they make?
Where are they located?
Where do they get information?
How do they get information?
Who is the competition?
What activities is the competition engaging in?

Of course, depending on our strategy we may need to do even more research. For example, if we are doing content marketing we are going to have to do keyword research to ensure our content is search engine optimized.

Strategic Thinking

Thinking strategically is easily one of the most important skills that we must have. Strategy can be intimidating but really it’s just determining how we are going to meet goals.

Let’s look at a non-PR example. Let’s say I am buying a new car. There are steps I have to take to get to my goal of having a new car. I need to know what car I want. I need to know how much I can spend. I need to find the car and finally, I need to purchase it. That’s a simple example but it illustrates my basic point. Our goals aren’t magically accomplished. We need a way to attain them. That’s strategy.

Data Measurement and Analysis

Simply put, without measuring, there is no way we can know if our efforts are successful. PR is an investment. Businesses need to know that there are getting a return on that investment.

The research process helps us in learning what needs to be measured. Our PR efforts are being tied to business goals. Let’s say a goal is to have 10,000 people visit our website. We either met that goal or we didn’t. Simple. If we aren’t driving people to the website to meet this goal, we need to re-evaluate. This is where analysis comes in.

We need to be able to look at data and determine what is working and what is not. Let’s say we have twelve blog posts covering three different topic areas. We can see by viewing the data that one topic is resonating with our audience and one is falling short of our goals. We need to re-adjust our efforts. It could be coming at the topic from a new angle or it could be dropping that topic and putting our energy into the topic area that is working. Whatever it is, the data will help us decide what’s working and what’s not.

Writing

If you are in PR, you aren’t shocked that I included writing. It is still one of the most important skills that a PR person needs. We are writing news releases, media alerts, blog posts, social media posts, Op-Ed’s, newsletters, speeches, and emails. That’s not an all-inclusive list. Depending on the PR efforts, there could be more.

Writing is hard. We need to have the right tone which is going to be dictated by our audience and the channel. The wrong tone will sink an article. A misspelled word or grammar error can completely destroy credibility.

Final Thoughts

I could have written a really long article with the 82 skills that every PR person should have and why they are important. Everybody probably has a slightly different list of the most important skills. That’s ok. The profession is constantly changing as are the skills that are needed. Without the basics, the other skills won’t matter and these the four skill areas that I think are crucial to PR success.

Shane Carpenter
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