5 skills every PR professional needs

The times are changing, but these skills remain the same no matter how much social media takes hold.


The past several weeks, as I’ve talked at social media conferences and taught a couple classes, I’ve pondered what skills are required in today’s public relations industry.

Although a lot has changed since I graduated from college in the ’90s, many of the core skills that make a public relations professional successful and sought after remain the same.

So, here’s a short list of what I think are the most in-demand and important skills for public relations practitioners.

1. Writing

You will always need to write excellent, persuasive, and grammatically correct copy. Members of today’s texting generation may find it difficult to embrace this more traditional public relations skill, but they will have to embrace it to be successful.

The shift here is that the audience for which public relations practitioners are writing has changed. It no longer comprises full-time journalists. Given today’s social media tools and the Internet in general, public relations pros write as much for the end-user—the target audience—as they do for the media.

Also, the writing that public relations practitioners do has changed based on the screen for which they’re writing—TV, computer, tablet, mobile phone, etc.—and the publication: traditional or digital, in a newsletter, e-mail, magazine, blog, newspaper, etc.

2. Creativity

Given the complexity of today’s communication channels and the amount of information each of us is bombarded with every day (probably more than our grandparents consumed in a year), it’s incumbent upon professional communicators to be creative in how they craft and deliver messages.

Creativity goes into everything that a good public relations professional does. It applies to the development of every message and delivery mechanism. It applies to how PR pros represent their employers or clients, and to the kinds of activities and events they produce.

3. Familiarity with publishing tools

With the advent of the Internet and social media tools, the public relations toolkit has exploded. In only a handful of years, we’ve gone from perhaps a half-dozen media channels to hundreds, if not thousands. Today’s public relations professional should be familiar with the myriad traditional and digital communication channels, so he or she can identify the best opportunity for his or her client, employer, etc.

4. Professionalism

In a profession so often belittled and criticized, the core values of advocacy, honesty, expertise, independence, loyalty, and fairness are important for the serious public relations practitioner.

In 2000 the Public Relations Society of America published its current code of ethics, which outlines why those six core values are important—plus, it contains principles for the ethical practice of public relations.

5. People skills

An accomplished public relations professional is good with people. The profession needs people who unite, not divide. People who help others get along and enjoy working to foster better communication in our sometimes-confrontational world.

In the words of Michael Jackson, public relations needs people who would agree with his statement: “I’m a lover, not a fighter.”

Pete Codella is a PR professional, author, and instructor. A version of this story first appeared on PeteCodella.com.

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