PR hiring trend: Employers want media producers

Companies need PR and communication professionals who know how to tell a story. Here are four skills you should grasp to fill that need.

In conversations with a number of colleagues and partners in the Twin Cities, I’ve noticed an interesting subplot emerging in on the hiring front.

Employers are looking for a new kind of PR candidate: media producers.


Think about it. What’s the one thing most companies will need in mass amounts in the months and years ahead? That’s right, content. And, when it comes to content, the demands are increasing—every day—as companies look for text, audio, video, and photo content, and many combinations of the four.

That’s where companies tend to struggle. Organizations typically have different specialists or contractors for each type of content. Video specialists. Writers. Photographers. They’re all silos with specialists.

I think that will change in the not-so-distant future.

One reason is economics. Many companies can no longer afford to specialize when it comes to content. Sure, they need quality, but not at a severe cost (and not for every project). At the same time, the talent pipeline is changing.

Younger PR pros are far more adept at photography and video technologies than their older counterparts. And technology has significantly leveled the playing field the last few years.

All this points toward the notion that companies will be looking more and more for a professional with storytelling skills. And photography skills. And video producing and editing skills. These people exist—just not in big numbers quite yet.

Let me give you a sense for the specific skills I’m talking about and how they might play out in today’s landscape:

Producing stories via photo. The ideal candidate knows how to frame a photo—and I’m not talking about taking pictures at your nephew’s T-ball game. The candidate will be comfortable with many forms of technologies, including camera phones and editing tools. And they’ll know the basics about photography including lighting, framing, and filters. Think Instagram, not Canon.

Producing stories via text. It’s an obvious skill that all PR pros need. But consider that you’ll be competing against former journalists more—people who know how to put a story together. To be the media producer of the next generation, you need to understand how to write a headline that will draw clicks. At the same time, you need to write a compelling lead while using bullets and other devices to make the article/post easier to scan. Think WordPress, Posterous, Tumblr, and Google+, not news releases.

Producing stories via video. Know how to shoot video using basic tools, how to conduct an interview, and how to set up a shoot. That doesn’t mean you have to be an expert—the demands on video quality have softened over the years (although not as much as predicted by the Flip-cam rush). Now, it’s easier than ever to record video on the go with smartphones that have pretty solid cameras built in. (I’ve shot a number of client videos with my iPhone camera. Just look what Tom Martin is doing with his Talking with Tom series; it’s shot and produced entirely with his iPhone.) Learn how to use editing software like iMovie (easier than you’d think). Learning these video production skills will make you more marketable because if PR pros want this kind of work done, we currently need to outsource it. Being able handle this in house means less outsourcing and less cost, which usually leads to happier bosses and clients. In this case, think iPhone and iMovie, not TV-style production.

Producing stories via audio. This one’s probably not as important as the previous three because audio is more of a niche approach, though it is a skill worth exploring. You should understand how to run an audio interview, including how to set up a podcast and conduct an interview, and know some of the basic technical aspects of audio production. Familiarize yourself with tools like Garageband and Audacity, although there are many different tools. (Take a look at this list.) The first step may be subscribing to a few podcasts and hearing how the experts do it. I suggest my long-time favorite For Immediate Release. Again, think Garageband, not radio studios.

Arik C. Hanson is the principal of ACH Communications in Minnesota. He blogs at Communications Conversations, where a version of this story first appeared.

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