20 key responsibilities for today’s PR pro

The days of penning a press release, faxing a pitch and calling it a day are over. The digital age requires diligence—even prescience—and finding meaningful metrics.

This article originally ran on PR Daily in September of 2018.

Most of us see what our jobs will entail during the hiring process.

Job descriptions generally distill responsibilities and expectations, but PR and communications roles are often difficult to pin down.

This “PR scope creep” is partly due to the constantly shifting digital world in which we work. There’s often lack of clarity about goals, measurement and priorities, resulting in an inefficient, scattershot approach.

To clarify core public relations objectives and responsibilities, here are 20 areas of focus:

1. Earned media/media relations. Far from just managing a digital Rolodex, landing earned media placements in publications that resonate with target audiences is one small part of the earned-media mix. Building relationships takes time. The PR pro sends thoughtful, data-backed pitches, engages with reporters on social media, sends swag (when appropriate), maintains relevant media lists and manages all follow-through with journalists.

2. Owned media/content strategy. The flipside of earned media is owned media: publishing content on brand-owned channels such as a customer-facing blog, Medium publication and the like. PR pros either write this content themselves or help drive strategy with a team of writers/editors and/or guest blog contributors.

3. Media monitoring and analysis. Once PR-driven content hits or publishes, media monitoring and analysis of that work kick in. Instituting a tech tool that can help with media monitoring is vital for today’s PR pros who want to quickly draw insights about what’s working and fold those findings back into their workflow.

4. Corporate communications. Corporate communicators regularly work with stakeholders across the organization to develop and distribute pertinent information to employees and key affiliates. They use various channels, including email, intranets and Slack, to ensure their messages reach the right audiences. Corporate communications regularly involves interaction with senior leaders and HR departments.

5. Messaging and positioning. Developing, documenting and disseminating overarching corporate messaging are vital to building a strong brand with a consistent message. Depending on the stage of the business, communications professionals are often tasked with creating messaging cards and positioning statements for the companies they represent. It’s also common for specialized agencies to be hired on a project basis for repositioning or when market research is required.

6. Internal communications. Internal communications, which also falls under corporate communications, is more nuanced than simply casting out an email. Internal communicators must turn dry content such as company policies into messages that employees want to read. Measuring the effectiveness of internal communications is an interesting PR problem that Mary Lou Panzano, vice president and head of U.S. communications for Bayer Corp., explains more in this Forbes article outlining internal communications best practices.

7. Media training. Particularly time-consuming for PR people at startups who must train a quickly growing number of top executives and first-time founders, media training is a must for anyone who will be in contact with the press. The PR pro may media train spokespeople themselves or hire an outside agency or consultant to lead a one-time session.

8. Executive ghostwriting. Today’s PR pro is responsible for conceiving, writing/editing, pitching, placing and promoting informative and innovative articles on behalf of the CEO and other senior executives. Small teams of writer/editors are often hired to help the PR pro scale such efforts.

9. Writing and editing. Beyond content creation comes writing and editing of any other PR asset that reaches customers or journalists. This includes writing and editing informational one-sheeters about new products or launches, case studies, event descriptions and signage, multimedia-rich press releases and more.

10. Crisis communications. If this year’s PR boo-boos didn’t show us the importance of having crisis communications strategies in place, we’re not sure what will. Reputation management and crisis communications are not airbags that deploy when something bad happens; they are a seatbelt your brand should always wear.

11. Reporting. Today’s PR professionals report PR results to their executive leaders (a given), but they are now responsible for sharing that information cross-functionally, too, to spur sharing of intelligence.

12. Iterative PR measurement. Reporting on established metrics isn’t enough today. Executives expect today’s PR professional to iterate on the PR metrics they use based on the goals of each campaign.

13. Speaking engagements. Niche industry events, role-specific conferences (catered to developers, creatives, etc.), and major conferences such as SXSW give brands ample opportunity to showcase the lessons of their strongest business leaders. Beyond vetting and landing those opportunities, the PR professional is also responsible for leading the creation of accompanying presentation decks and talking points.

14. Multimedia development and visual storytelling. Though video and multimedia production is sometimes managed by creative teams or outsourced to boutique agencies specializing in visual storytelling, today’s PR teams are expected to have a baseline understanding of how to storyboard video content or write a creative brief requesting visual assets tied to their campaigns.

15. Event and experiential marketing. Hosting your own events—think Casper’s pop-up Snooze Bars or Stay Inn faux-tels—or sponsoring booths at industry-specific conferences can fill a PR plate rather quickly.

16. Influencer marketing and blogger relations. Whether managing influencer sponsorships or engaging with an unpaid network of organic brand advocates, influencer marketing and blogger relations are increasingly important as self-publishing expands and evolves. Some PR pros manage this in-house; others tap the expertise of specialized influencer marketing agencies.

17. Social media and community management. Depending on where you work, social media and community management can live on PR/communications teams or creative/marketing teams. The community management piece also entails social monitoring and responding to customer inquiries, an extension of customer service, which is itself a close cousin of reputation management. Whether a PR pro’s role includes this responsibility varies greatly per size of organization.

18. Managing PR agencies. The in-house PR professional can wear myriad management hats, often juggling freelance content creators, graphic designers, specialized communications consultants and PR agencies. For big, global brands, this might include managing multiple PR agencies responsible for earned media placements and opportunities in different regions across the globe.

19. Data journalism. Data journalism entails gathering internally bred data and turning that information into marketable stories, be they earned media pitches or brand-published content. Today’s PR pro is expected to be able to work hand in hand with a data scientist to transform data points into content that will pique interest with prospective customers or entice journalists to ask for more.

20. Trendspotting. PR pros have always had their finger on the pulse of what’s trending in the news, but now they are also expected to spot trends, ensuring that their companies get ahead of the curve on key news topics.

Have we missed any PR responsibilities? Please comment below to add to the list.

Sharam Fouladgar-Mercer is the co-founder of AirPR. A version of this post first appeared on AirPR’s blog.

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