5 PR skills you won’t learn in a classroom

Do you know how to budget? Read a balance sheet? Possess basic management skills? You’d better get cracking if you want to work in PR.


An interesting thing happened the other day. A new business prospect asked us why he hadn’t come across a PR professional before who knew the right questions to ask about his business.

It’s a gross generalization, but as a rule we joke that we went into PR because we hate numbers.

And numbers are just one thing you need to know that you won’t learn in PR class. Here are five other skills:

1. The business dashboards. Do you know the difference between a profit and loss statement, and a balance sheet? Do you know how to read them? Do you know the difference between revenue and the bottom line? What about the difference between gross and net margins? Do you know how your efforts can affect revenue and margins? If you can’t say yes to every one of these questions, I recommend you befriend someone in your accounting department. Learn it. It will benefit you in the long run.

2. Traditional marketing. The lines between PR and marketing are becoming even more blurred. In a comment on a blog post describing the difference between PR and advertising, Ken Mueller lamented that the term “PR” may eventually go away because everything is integrating. Learn how to generate, nurture, and convert leads. Work with your sales team to understand how they use the customer relationship management software. Learn how to automate some of your reporting, as it relates to all the good work you’re doing.

3. Budgeting and forecasting. As you move up in your career, you’re going to be charged with budgeting and forecasting. Learn how to budget conservatively and aggressively. Learn the difference between accrual and cash statements. Learn how to adjust your forecasting, based on trends, the industry, and even accounts receivables.

4. Management and leadership. There is a difference between the two and it’s necessary for both to exist in your career. Particularly if you work on the agency side, you’ll find you are managing client accounts by the time you hit account supervisor level. But you might also be leading an internal innovation team or mentoring younger colleagues. Management skills need to be learned so you can lead a team that works together in the best interest of the clients.

5. Willingness to learn something new. In a blog post, Suzi Carragher commented, “A former colleague was often asked if she was in the medical profession, because she could hold a conversation about open heart surgery with any surgeon on the planet. She advocated FOR the medical profession as a public relations practitioner.”

My friend Mimi Meredith was to join an agency that focuses on automotive PR. She worked at a car dealership, selling cars, for 90 days. Learn the business you’re counseling. Go on sales calls. Work on the floor. Do what you have to do to know everything you can.

There are many other skills you need as a PR professional that you won’t learn in the classroom. So, you tell me, what else is there?

Gini Dietrich is founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich. This post originally ran on Spin Sucks.

Topics: PR

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