PR pros are going back to school.
A new strategic plan from the Public Relations Society of America calls for a sharper focus on professional development in a changing industry environment, the organization announced.
As demands have surged for social media expertise, measurement skills, branding and reputation management, PRSA is expanding its role as a center for professional growth.
“The industry is changing dramatically,” says Laura Kane, PRSA’s chief communications officer. “There are so many new things to learn. We are hearing agencies and corporate PR people as well that sense that many communicators are lagging.”
The changes will include new courses, a “sounding board” for networking opportunities, a soon-to-be-launched mobile-friendly website and more content aimed at regional audiences.
All this will be done, Kane says, in answer to the question, “What are the skillsets that people will need in the next five years?”
The plan cites a USC Annenberg report that forecasts a growth in the global PR agency business sector from $14 billion to nearly $20 billion in 2020. Hiring to meet those demands could pose a challenge. Communications professionals must have traditional skills such as writing and strategic planning while also being versed in technology, content development, social media and paid advertising, the 2017-2019 Strategic Plan Executive Summary reports.
“We are diversifying our content to include training focused on best practices in PR, marketing, digital communications, online marketing and advertising,” the plan states.
PRSA has developed new courses and partnered with organizations to deliver high-quality courses “that will make people smarter and better prepared,” Kane says. (Ragan Communications is a PRSA partner.) PRSA will also offer region-specific professional development.
The society has introduced a private online community in which PR pros can share questions and get feedback. Conversations include questions about the best monitoring tools, what to include in a strategic communications plan and what trends are prevailing in the industry.
Members can also look for help locally, posting, for example, “I’m looking for a mentor in the Seattle area,” Kane says.
“We have literally thousands of conversations going on,” she adds.
The goal is to do a better job of communicating to members and the community at large about issues that are driving business, Kane says. PRSA already offers certificates and credentials in areas such as ethics and reputation management; now it will offer new video education on emerging trends.
“Slack is really, really hot among a lot of communicators, but not everybody knows about it,” Kane says. “Similarly, Videolicious, which allows you to edit iPhone video, is a great tool as well. We want to take some of those tools and shine a light on them so that our members have a place to go and say, ‘OK, what is this?'”
‘Finance for the non-financial’
Because many PR pros weren’t business majors, the organization will teach about topics such as “Finance for the non-financial,” helping members to learn basic skills such as how to read a balance sheet.
“You reach a point in your career where you find yourself writing the earnings release,” Kane says. “And you think, ‘Wow, I really wish I had taken that accounting course.'”
Professional education will be offered through a variety of formats, among them videos, live classes, articles and podcasts.
Says Kane: “PRSA is retooling itself to make sure that we are the go-to resource to help communicators navigators the changing PR and business landscape.”