7 essential skills for today’s PR pro

As technology flourishes, as visual content draws more eyeballs and as the internet becomes a global playground, the game is rapidly changing for communicators. Hone these key abilities.


A successful PR career requires more than a degree and a friendly personality.

Proven skills in writing, research and relationship-building have long been the most desirable traits for college graduates considering a career in public relations.

PR professionals are expected to listen carefully to others, research and articulate ideas well, and conduct thorough and accurate research. Those verbal attributes remain fundamental for PR success.

Now, however, those desiring to flourish in the profession must master additional skills.

For long-term success, PR pros have to remain flexible and embrace ongoing learning. The digital landscape continually changes. New software programs, social media networks and technology tools can become widely popular—and an essential part of PR.

“In a media environment where constant change is the norm,” says Joe Cohen, national chair for Public Relations Society of America, “and where the role of the PR professional continues to expand and evolve, ongoing professional development will be increasingly essential for PR pros across all levels of experience.”

Here are seven vital skills that can strengthen your PR career:

1. Graphic design. Linguistic skills are no longer enough in PR. The profession increasingly is image-focused. PR firms use software to design flyers, infographics, client invitations and other projects.

Candidates with even a basic knowledge of Photoshop, Illustrator or InDesign gain an advantage over competitors. Graphic design skills are relatively easy to acquire through free or inexpensive courses online, or at community colleges and public libraries.

“Before your next interview, build up a small portfolio of social media graphics and a flyer or event invite to demonstrate your understanding of design, composition and layout,” Lori Riviere, founder of The Riviere Agency, advises in the PR Couture blog.

In addition to developing design skills, it’s important to cultivate an aesthetic sense. Subscribing to publications that emphasize design in fashion, interior design and graphics can help polish your design sensibilities. Paying attention to design elements of advertising in print and on TV can also hone and elevate your sense of style.

2. Visual content. This has become crucial for social media marketing and media pitching. Visual content is more likely to be accessed and shared across social media networks, and editors tend to prefer submissions with images or videos.

Job candidates who can take high-quality photographs and videos, even with a smartphone, have a huge advantage. Free online courses and tutorials abound.

Although producing decent videos requires more than pushing the record button, you can produce interesting, high-quality videos by following basic guidelines .

3. Data analytics. Almost two-thirds of PR executives surveyed cite data analytics as one of the important skills for PR professionals. This ability can be as important as the more traditional skills of writing and interpersonal communications, many say.

PR agencies and corporate communications departments now expect staff members to measure PR results with multiple metrics and demonstrate how PR contributes to business objectives such as increased sales and improved return on investment.

Understanding the basics of Google Analytics, analytics features of social media platforms, and leading media measurement services has become essential. College-level or online courses on statistics and data analytics can help advance careers.

4. Social media. The proliferation of online platforms has changed how publicists pitch to news media outlets, how journalists find story ideas, and how the public consumes news.

Understanding social media means more than just uploading images to Facebook, however.

It entails understanding the different best practices for various platforms, engaging with audiences and aligning activities with specific business objectives.

Most important, PR professionals must recognize how standards differ in professional and personal use of social media.

5. Social media monitoring. Research shows that business executives believe this practice is one of the most the most valuable services that PR firms offer. Research also reveals that it is one of the top public relations trends, along with digital storytelling and real-time marketing.

Social media monitoring uncovers customer needs that current products aren’t meeting, helps evaluate customer support and sales, and gathers information about competitors—all expanded responsibilities for PR. By learning how to use a social media monitoring tool and sharing information with other departments, PR pros can gain huzzahs and advance their careers.

“If you’re not listening carefully to customers and prospects, you can be sure competitors are, and they’ll be the ones reaping the benefits from providing products and services that better meet the needs of customers,” warns Angela Hausman, a marketing professor at Howard University and associate editor for the European Journal of Marketing, in a Business to Community post.

6. Blogging. Job applicants can gain attention by creating their own blog. Just make sure it’s current, with well-written posts and attractive images. Read industry blogs, consider online courses, and connect with other bloggers.

“It is best to use a simple layout and proofread all of your blog posts three times before posting them,” Riviere advises.

7. HTML. The ability to write HTML code to post content on websites, at least at the basic level, is now a must-have skill. You probably won’t be expected to code an entire site, but you should be able to fix a link or change a link color when needed. HTML coding skills can be picked up on the job, but it’s best to learn in school to hit the ground running.

Because public relations has changed, the skills required for a successful career in PR have also changed. Although writing and relationship-building remain fundamental skills, fruitful PR careers now require other abilities.

PR now entails more than writing press releases and contacting journalists. Digital, social media and data analytics skills can boost PR careers.

A version of this post first appeared on Glean.info.

Topics: PR

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