The Evolution of the PR Professional: The Shifting Skill Set Required for PR Pros

The role of Public Relations as an activity has evolved a great deal and seen a massive change over the years. Before going into the dynamics of PR and what skill sets a PR professional should inculcate, it is important that we throw some light on the history of PR. The importance of communication with the public and maintaining a positive public image started ages ago but the history of PR dates back to the early 1900s which was claimed to be the start of modern PR. While many believe that Edward Bernays invented the PR profession in the 1920s, some claim Ivy Lee as the person who started PR in 1904.

The role of PR professional has evolved too over the years. Technology and social media have changed the ways we receive information and process it. The increase in digital content and decrease in the audience’s attention span has required PR to evolve from traditional media communication.

The evolution of digital mediums of news offers PR professionals a wide range of media forms to choose from.

Public Relations is all about earned media. PR can validate and establish a brand in a manner no other marketing module can. Oh, it is also the most cost effective!

The evolution of media and the PR industry means the professionals of today need many more skillets than what are taught in colleges even today. Some of the key skillsets include:

  • Content: Content is king. Visual content goes a step higher, as the need to keep the target audience’s attention gets more important. A good PR professional today needs to have creative writing skills, and that doesn’t mean just writing press releases. Even your mail to the journalist need to be creative, and perhaps include a certain amount of visuals like infographics.
  • Creative Skills: We are all not creative souls. Earlier, our creativity was merely in developing content. Today, one needs to think visually. Brands do not always have the budgets to create great videos or even hire a designer team. Quite often, you do not get the content you require in time. It is imperative for a PR professional to have some basic creative skill sets to help create infographics, quality powerpoint presentations and perhaps even videos. Good imagery is important to support a story today, and basic creatives doesn’t always require a designer.
  • Research: This isn’t a new skill but has become vital for PR professionals. There are a varied set of tools that allow a PR professional research on the industry news and clients.  Gone are the days when the newspaper or TV channels were the primary messengers. The advent of social media has created a revolution in the field of media and communication. New media has thrown open a new dimension for stories, creating opportunities for certain aspects that couldn’t be explored before. It is very important for PR pros to think out of the box and create such PR plans and strategies and explore these new media platforms to showcase their clients. For this, it is very important for PR pros to first understand what these new media’s objectives and principles are, and remain constantly updated about what’s going on in the industry. Then only one can make the perfect pitch.
    • Who Are You Talking To: This is yet another aspect of research before making a pitch. The days of a standard pitch mail getting a response is entirely done. The perfect pitch mail and the perfect pitch story is an important skill that PR pros should develop and work on every day. The pitch mail is an important aspect to introduce the journalist to your client.  Researching on the journalist and what the person writes about is crucial before shooting off the mail.
  • Influencer Marketing: Let’s accept it. The hit rate of PR has fallen lower than what it was even 4 years ago. There’s more competition for the same amount of space, and we recommend focussing on quality vs quantity. Of course, communication needs to go on and influencers play an important role in creating the brand. Influencer Marketing has also evolved from merely asking a blogger or some Twitterati to give your brand a shout out. Influencer Marketing has to be creative, and you need to put that in skillset in your basket. This requires you to be on social media, and go a little beyond liking just your friends photographs. Know your influencers. Know their likes and dislikes and the potential suitability with a brand. Learn how to create an effective communication with Influencers and measure the campaign reach.

It’s important that PR pros continue to tell more interesting stories, explore more of the new and ever-changing media, and create more engaging PR campaigns. In today’s fast paced world it is very important that PR practitioners follow transparency and authentic stories at same time being fast and accurate.

About The Author:

Ms. Sheetal Nayak is a former banker turned PR Executive at Pepper. A proud Odia, who puts food and books before everything else.

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