Several weeks ago, a colleague sent me the link to an article by Arik Hanson titled “10 skills the PR pro of 2022 MUST have.” Not surprisingly, these skills primarily relate to digital technologies and social media. The author also made the point that traditional PR skills, such as writing and media relations, will be more important as ever. The “emerging skills,” as he described the ones making his list, really are a layer on top of traditional ones.
While I certainly agree that the emerging skills he identified—such as the ability to manage social content creation, mobile and analytics—will be vitally important in the future, the reality is that public relations specialists should be doing or learning how to do these things now.
By 2022, I suspect we will be beyond what even the most visionary among us can imagine. Given the rate at which technology is changing our lives and work, it’s virtually impossible to predict how the PR profession will be shaped a decade from now.
What the article really got me thinking about, however, are the things that will always be important to the public relations profession. My top 10 list for success combines skills and qualities that are timeless.
Regardless of the channels and methods we use to communicate in 2022 and beyond, a PR specialist will always be in demand if he or she has:
- Integrity. Yes, I know there are unscrupulous PR people just as there are unscrupulous people in other walks of life. But sooner or later the truth emerges and the bad guys get exposed and discredited. If reporters, clients or customers don’t trust your word or character, you’d better find something else to do because you aren’t going to have much of a career in PR in 2012 or 2022.
- A positive attitude. Being a positive, energetic person with a can-do attitude will always go a long ways. The world is full of people who can give you a dozen reasons why something can’t be done or won’t work. And sometimes they’re right, but often it’s because they’ve allowed themselves to become negative and cynical in their thinking, always seeing the glass as half empty rather than half full.
- Relational skills. Being a team player and having the ability to relate well to people at all levels will never go out of style. It’s one of the most important traits of successful people, whether in PR or in other disciplines.
- A knack for networking. Being a resource and connector for others will pay off, even if there’s not an immediate personal benefit. From assisting reporters or bloggers looking for good sources to building relationships with key influencers in the community and industry, time invested in people is never wasted.
- Balance.Know how to strike the balance between needing to get information out quickly vs. ensuring the information is correct and credible. If you wait too long, in today’s 24/7 news cycle you may miss out on opportunities. But a quick response must also be a responsible one, and if you want to keep your credibility make sure the information you disseminate is accurate to the best of your ability.
- Strategic thinking. The ability to do effective planning and see the big picture separates the strategists from the order takers. Effective PR people are able to juggle multiple tasks simultaneously without losing focus on the long-term objective. Those who think tactically (what needs to be done) without also thinking strategically (why we are doing something and how we should go about it) will have a hard time advancing in PR.
- A cool head under pressure. Thinking quickly, clearly and calmly under pressure—and helping others do so in a crisis—will always earn respect among peers and leaders alike.
- Flexibility. A PR person’s day can change in an instant, and you need to be able to shift priorities at a moment’s notice.
- A yearn to learn. A broad-based college education that incorporates working knowledge of PR principles, business, journalism, marketing and the social sciences is a good start, but learning should be a life-long activity. Keeping up with industry trends through blogs, conferences, industry publications, etc., will keep your thinking fresh and make you a valuable resource to others.
- The ability to communicate clearly, concisely and relevantly, regardless of the medium being used. A good PR person understands the audience he or she is targeting and what’s important to them. Knowing how to adapt a story to a particular niche and medium—and how to speak to people in a meaningful way— has always been vital to success. As audiences get more and more segmented, the demand for this skill will only increase.
Don Beehler provides public relations consulting services to advertising agencies and businesses.