Anyone in public relations who has tried to explain to their family and friends what they do at work knows that it can be a tricky career to describe.
This is becoming increasingly true as the industry evolves and PR professionals are required to wear more hats than ever. In fact, Muck Rack’s State of PR 2022 report determined that the average PR pro focuses on 4.5 areas at once.
Well-rounded PR pros can drive real value for their clients or brands, and recent data projects that media and comms jobs will grow rapidly over the next decade. Therefore, there’s no better time to brush up on the basic skills needed to thrive in PR roles today and in the future.
Whether you’re a newbie or an experienced PR specialist, here are five areas to focus on:
The best brands lead with how they think, not just what they do.
A brand’s story is its business strategy, but there are different tiers and types of company stories. Some weeks, you might be pitching reporters with your brand’s unique perspective on trending topics or niche industry happenings, while other weeks, you might be sharing larger announcements like company hires or updates.
When sharing product news, make sure to connect the dots to why the new product or features matter to potential buyers and avoid getting too caught up in the tech particulars. Use funding news as an opportunity to tell a bigger story about your brand and its differentiators.
In your PR career, you might also have the chance to support the launch of a company. When bringing a company’s story to market, focus on the “why” and the “why now,” and consider how to best demonstrate tangible impact.
While it’s safe to say that gone are the days when public relations and media relations were synonymous, finding strategic and creative ways to secure earned coverage for clients is still a top priority for most PR pros and the brands they represent.
If you’re just starting in PR, it’s a smart idea to become familiar with key media relations terms, such as embargo and exclusive, as well as different strategies for sharing news with reporters. Keep in mind that outreach methods differ based on the type of news you’re sharing and the publication/outlet you’re targeting. For instance, there are unique considerations for landing broadcast coverage, such as TV or radio.
Once your news piques the interest of a reporter, they may ask for a live interview with a spokesperson at your brand. Before connecting your spokesperson with the reporter over the phone or a video call, make sure they’ve been trained in how to converse with the media. We recommend brushing up on media training 1x per year.
All the best PR pros are great writers. From short-form content, like media pitches or social media posts, to long-form content, like bylines or ebooks, writing is an essential skill to succeed in this field.
Ensure your message doesn’t get lost in written form by sounding like a human, building in time to proofread and sticking with a style guide (we use AP Style). Effective copywriting is all about saying more with less.
PR teams are also strategic advisors to brands when it comes to corporate communications and knowing what is appropriate for the brand to speak to and when it’s the right time to do so. This might involve anything from counseling a brand on whether to speak up or stay quiet about a hot-button issue to navigating a crisis.
But PR’s role in corporate comms support is more than tactfully handling crisis situations – it’s also helping executives become better leaders. Thought leaders need to be authentic and have real ideas; parroting the ideas of others doesn’t work.
Through media, content, social media and design, PR pros also have the opportunity to help brands build communities. As storytellers, it’s always crucial to find new ways to connect with others and drive deeper conversations.
According to Sprout Social, today’s PR pros also need to be well versed in digital strategies like SEO, influencer marketing, social media campaigns, link building, etc. We couldn’t agree more. Behind every good story should be a great strategy.
Social media gives brands a variety of platforms to speak directly to their audience and amplify their voice and the voices of others. PR pros need strong copywriting and social listening skills in order to join in relevant conversations. Newsletters are another powerful way to drop your brand’s messages into your audience’s inboxes.
It’s also important to remember that while PR people are often “words people,” they need to work with data and visuals to measure impact and bring campaigns to life. For example, conducting surveys is a powerful way to tell data-driven stories. Stats are enticing to reporters and can contextualize your brand’s messages.
While it may sound intimidating, conducting regular audits of social media and other owned channels helps paint a clear picture of which comms tactics are most effective and where to pivot.
PR teams often have designers on board to help maintain a brand’s visual identity and elevate content through graphic design, video, photography, animations and more.
Public relations as an industry is changing, and the skills needed to succeed in this career are changing, too. Luckily, PR pros are trained to be adaptable and tuned into trends and shifts in the world. Keeping up with basic skills and being open to learning new things is the best place to start.