10 essential skills for the future of PR

In an emerging landscape that now features such platforms as Instagram and Snapchat, the author updates his 2012 list with an eye on the next five to seven years.

A lot has changed over the past four years. In Internet years, that’s an eternity.

In 2012, I wrote a post titled “10 skills the PR pro of 2022 must have.” It was based on trends I’d seen with clients, tidbits I’d picked up in talking to industry friends and bits of information I’d stowed away from online articles and posts.

Here’s a new list of skills for the PR pro of the future (with notes about what’s been updated and deleted from that initial list in 2012).

1. Social advertising copywriting skills and an ability to manage social media advertising campaigns

Though the ability to write social media ads on networks like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram hasn’t changed, the skill set to manage complete campaigns on these platforms has evolved. (This is the addition from the 2012 list.)

In today’s climate, PR folks are asked to manage social media ad campaigns all the time. That means learning how to use Power Editor, LinkedIn’s ad platform and Twitter ad products. It means understanding how to manipulate different components of ad campaigns, as well as how to bill clients.

2. Video and audio production skills

Sure, video production skills are still in demand in 2016. Suddenly, though, with more organizations considering audio content as part of their mix, audio production skills are also in demand. (This is the 2016 addition.) Even just a basic understanding of Garageband (which you can essentially teach yourself or learn about at an Apple store) would go a long way right now.

3. Ability to lead exploration of new media and tools on behalf of your organization

I think I whiffed on the “mobile” skill set in 2012. Not sure PR folks really need any kind of mobile development skills—even rudimentary ones. Increasingly, I see a need to explore new media and tools in an effort to keep pushing organizations forward. That won’t change soon.

4. Ability to create effective social media content and manage social content systems

As with No. 1 above, the ability to create social media content remains a key skill set among PR pros. Managing all that content is increasingly important as organizations stockpile content. (This is the 2016 addition.) Tagging and taxonomy are hallmarks of this skill set. Do you know how to repurpose the right evergreen content and how to organize content so it’s searchable? These are keys to the management aspect of this skill.

5. A deep understanding of traditional, digital and business analytics

Most people have a cursory understanding of Facebook Insights, Google Analytics and other platforms, but can they translate those data into actionable ideas and approaches? That’s where we’re light. When I see companies here in Minneapolis searching for an analytics person, it seems they struggle to find the ideal candidate. There’s opportunity all over the place.

6. Understanding how to produce reports that make sense to clients

Though SEO skills are still important (they made my 2012 list), I’m seeing the emergence (or evolution) of a much more crucial skillset: the ability to produce reports with context, actionable intelligence and clearly articulated next steps. So often I see almost nonsensical reports from partners and other agency vendors. The client must think: “What do I do with this?”

The key with solid reporting is not only to report on the data but, more important, to make those data come to life. Provide relevant context, provide ideas as outcomes of the data, and always cull the data and present them in terms the client can understand.

7. Ability to develop a visual style for brands online

Many larger organizations have internal creative departments dedicated to this sort of thing. A lot don’t, and that’s where it can fall to a PR counselor to fill the gaps. Regardless of an organization’s size, PR pros play a large role here. One big part of social media content is visuals, so it’s essential to have someone with an eye for photography and a feel for positioning the brand visually online.

8. Ability to write clearly for external and internal audiences

Today’s PR pro is being asked to do more and more. That often includes writing for external audiences in a traditional PR sense, as well as writing for internal audiences. With the advent of employee social media advocacy programs, PR folks are often asked to lead those initiatives. That means understanding what motivates employees, as well as having solid writing skills.

9. Managing virtual teams and the ability to work effectively as part of a virtual team

I see virtual work environments as a huge trend over the next five to seven years. That means understanding how to work virtually will be a key skill set among PR folks. Understanding your ideal workflows, the best tools to use, and how to best use those tools to collaborate and communicate will become essential when you’re working remotely most of the time.

10. Identifying and collaborating with influencers from Instagram to YouTube to bloggers

Four to six years ago, everyone was talking about blogger outreach, and with good reason: Blogs were the dominant cog in the social media machinery. Fast-forward to 2016, and there are now platforms such as Instagram and Snapchat—with people on those networks who command significant attention.

What’s more, many brand managers are having a tough time getting started and building communities on those platforms. Enter influencer outreach—knowing how to find and approach those powerful online voices without offending them. You must also know how to draw up contracts that make sense in this pay-for-play environment.

A version of this article originally appeared on Communications Conversations.

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Topics: PR

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