What roles are agencies and in-house teams looking for?
Most center around the adoption of the latest technology, whether that involves social media, video and analytics, or it concerns data collection, artificial intelligence and augmented and virtual reality.
PR talent expert Jamie McLaughlin of JWM Talent shares how he sees the future of the PR role as new technology becomes more deeply embedded in companies and agencies.
The value of social media
Being a savvy social media user isn’t a bonus; it’s an essential asset for the modern communicator. McLaughlin says many teams are looking for everyone to own a piece of the social media strategy.
“I think there is an argument that it shouldn’t be up to just one person in a room, hammering on the keyboard,” he says. “It should be prevalent in all parts of the business.”
Are there still roles out there for communicators who don’t want to touch social media? McLaughlin has doubts. “Maybe there are some real heavy media relations focused people and businesses or agencies,” he says, “but I would find it extraordinarily surprising that anyone is out there pitching a PR campaign that doesn’t include social media or digital.”
When it comes to disruptive technology—and how it affects PR roles—McLaughlin takes a firm stance: Adapt, or risk being replaced.
“I was asked recently: ‘Will robots be taking over our jobs?’” he says. “Communicators are not just pushing buttons online. It’s about instinct, gut, advice and creativity, and I don’t think those things will be replaced. However, some people may be replaced by those who are better using technology.”
According to McLaughlin, PR teams must be ready to use big data, artificial intelligence and a wide array of tech. He says, “Fundamentally, the thing that I see as the thing on the horizon that can help PR and communications but could also mean that marketing encroaches even more on this space is absolutely big data and analytics.”
And it’s not something that is going to happen years from now but a transition already in motion at many organizations.
“I think [data and AI] could galvanize and enhance PR and communications if PR and communications get on top of it,” he says. “If they don’t, and marketing and advertising does, then they could encroach even more on PR.”
Another part of social media for PR pros looking to advance in their careers is the development of a personal brand. Even if you keep your social media feeds private, some employers will ask to see how you curate your online presence.
“I know my clients who are recruiting digital and social roles, they will ask for access to Instagram, to see their Twitter even if it is locked down,” says McLaughlin. However, PR pros shouldn’t panic if they aren’t personally invested in their Instagram accounts.
“It’s not often a deal breaker,” he adds. One way to overcome lackluster social media channels is to “blow them away” in your interview. Another way is to show the work you’ve done for clients.
McLaughlin gives an example of “a very high-level woman who runs digital for a beauty brand.” Although she is “almost non-existent on social media herself,” she can show the work she has done for her company, and potential employers don’t need to see her personal channels.
That doesn’t mean that you should neglect your social media presence. McLaughlin says developing your social media brand can help set you up for career growth.
“I think that some of the most successful, the most shrewd people do have a brand, do have an outward facing story,” he explains. For PR pros, a strong personal brand is a key differentiator in an industry that doesn’t have a lot of rigorous measures in place to police membership.
“There are no barriers to entry,” McLaughlin says. “You’re not doctors or engineers, so effectively you’re selling yourself, you are selling a service—so if you have a great brand, it goes hand in hand really.”
It’s important to have more than a clever Twitter handle and a personal blog, McLaughlin stresses. “It shouldn’t be a deal breaker if you do great work and you give great advice.”
However, it helps.
Don’t forget LinkedIn
Which social media platforms deserve your attention?
McLaughlin says he doesn’t know many senior communicators who don’t have a Twitter presence.
“I think LinkedIn is a hugely untapped area,” he adds. “It’s an area I’ve been extremely successful in getting my message across.”
If you are working with influencers, Instagram is an important channel.
“I think it depends on where you are, what level you are, what the ultimate goal is,” he says.
However, McLaughlin believes the future is brightest on LinkedIn. He cites Gary Vaynerchuk, who has a robust LinkedIn presence, as an example of the opportunity communicators could take advantage of on the platform.
“It doesn’t have to be like ‘My brand is I’m a brash, play by my own rules’ [type] or I am an environmental crusader,” he says. “It just can be ‘Hey, this what I’m up to, this is what I’m doing. … Here’s a little bit of insight into my life.’”
To develop a recognizable and sustainable brand, McLaughlin advises, all you have to do is be yourself.