Six PR Skills in Short Supply – Sunday Christmas Coffee Contemplations

The end of the year is customarily a time for reflection on the past and prognostications for the future. This past week, PR maven (such an inadequate and overused word for someone who’s so much more) Gini Dietrich posted a list of six skills that every PR pro needs in this digital world on her blog Spin Sucks.

I initially read and agreed wholeheartedly with the list, but as I prepared for the holiday week, the post kept bugging me, popping back up into my thoughts at the oddest moments. Then last night, watching my techno-geek spouse exploring all the latest features on his new smartphone, I realized why: it’s all tech and marketing oriented. Not that it’s wrong, it isn’t. Gini is focusing on skills that PR needs to acquire to be effective in the future, and everything she listed is a definite must. But I think the present needs some help that it’s not currently getting.

As a profession, we have one advantage that we’re not exploiting to our benefit: our difference from marketing.

Traditionally, marketing approaches communication from the perspective of product awareness and promotion as it takes into consideration demand, competition, and how to get more people to purchase services or products. Marketers work to promote a specific product or service a company or organization offers, customers and their needs, and are working to anticipate what the next product will be or how to promote it. Marketing’s approach is to sell products first, with the organization as a supporting player in the strategy

Public relations uses the big picture approach, dealing more with the company itself and its relationship with different segments in the public and within the company itself. Public relations is more concerned with the public’s view of the company and its impact on the company’s sales, as people who trust a company or organization are more likely to become and remain customers…or at least won’t actively oppose the organization.

Ultimately, the two professions are working toward the same organizational goals, with some of the same tools, but with a distinctly different viewpoint that serve the organization better if working as a team instead of squabbling in territorial fights.

Gini’s post got me to thinking about the skills we need in PR that I’ve noticed seem to be lacking a bit, so here’s my list of six skills that, if you don’t have them, you need to get them- yesterday:

Listening – There’s a BIG difference between “hearing” and “listening.” If you want to be a success, you’d better be able to listen: to your boss, coworkers, customers, and critics. I promise it will make the difference between success and failure.

Speaking – Have you ever been in a discussion with a coworker, only to have him completely misunderstand what you said? I know it happens with my husband all the time. Too often we carefully choose our words but lose sight of the language needs of those we want to speak to, and end up wondering why they didn’t “get it.”

Thinking – This should go without saying, but how often have you watched some executive on TV open his mouth, insert both feet, and walk around for a while? Tony Hayward, anyone? The ability to simply think intelligently always seems to be in short supply. If you can master the ability to think strategically, and then act, you’ll be ahead of the game.

Tact – Knowing what to say is only part of a PR professional’s skill set. Knowing when, or more importantly, when NOT to say it, is crucial. The right word at the wrong time is just as damaging as the wrong word, and can completely wreck a campaign.

Writing – There are good writers out there – I know, and read, many of them. There’s also some really mediocre and just plain terrible writers as well. If you can write, you’re one step ahead of the rest of the crowd. If you can’t…start practicing.

Technical – The PR world is only going to get more and more crowded with the latest gee-whiz gizmo, and your bosses are going to fall in love with the tech flavor of the month, along with everyone else. You’ve got to be as adept at smart phones, SEO, and whatever comes next as you are at writing media alerts and blog posts. If you don’t understand them, how can you expect to use them effectively?

Now that I’ve vented on this fine Christmas morning, I’m going to go pull out my LPs and my fountain pen, and go retro for a while. Enjoy the holidays!



1 comment

  1. You’re the second person to say I should have included listening. I agree it HAS to be there. I guess I just thought it’s so important that all PR pros should already be doing it. If not, shame on them. Seriously.

    And I agree with your tips, as well. The biggest challenge we’re going to have in the next few years is measuring our results. Too long we’ve gotten away with increased brand awareness and that isn’t going to cut it in the future.

    Happy Holidays!

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