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10 skills the PR pro of the future will need (revised)


Almost four years ago, I wrote a post titled “10 skills the PR pro of 2022 must have.” It was based on trends I’ve seen with clients, tidbits I’ve picked up in talking to industry friends and little bits of information I’d stowed away from articles and posts I’ve read on the interwebs.

Four years later, a lot has changed. I mean, four years isn’t that long in human years, right? But, in internet years, it’s an eternity.

So, I thought it might make sense to revisit the list and see how it stood up. See if the list still made sense today, and if I should add anything to it–and what should be deleted (or revised).

Swiss Army

Here’s the new list of skills for the PR pro of the future (with notes about what’s been updated and deleted from that initial list in 2012).

2016 Skills of the PR pro of the Future

1: Social advertising copywriting skills and an ability to manage social media advertising campaigns

While the ability to write social ads on networks like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram hasn’t changed, the skill set to manage complete campaigns on these platforms has evolved (this is the addition from the 2012 list). In today’s climate, PR folks are asked to manage social ad campaigns all the time. That means learning how to use Power Editor, LinkedIn’s ad platform and Twitter ad products. It means understanding how to manipulate different components of ad campaigns. It means understanding how bill clients. All of it.

2: Video AND audio production skills

Sure video production skills are still in demand in 2016. No doubt about that. But, suddenly, with more brands considering audio content as part of their mix, audio production skills are also in demand (this is the 2016 addition). Even just a basic understanding of Garageband (which you can essentially teach yourself, or take classes at an Apple store) would go a long ways right now.

3: Ability to lead exploration of new media and tools on behalf of your organization

I think I whiffed on the “mobile” skill set in 2012. Not sure PR folks really need any kind of mobile dev skills–even rudimentary ones. But, increasingly, what I see is a constant need to explore new media and tools in an effort to keep pushing organizations forward. And, I don’t see that changing anytime soon.

4: Ability to create effective social media content and manage social content systems

Much like #1 above, the ability to create social content is certainly still a key skill set among PR types. But, the ability to manage all that content is now becoming increasingly important as brands start to rack up huge stockpiles of content (this is the 2016 addition). Tagging and taxonomy are hallmarks of this skill set. Do you know how to repurpose the right evergreen content? Do you know how to organize content effectively so it’s searchable and findable? These are keys to the management piece of this skill.

5: A deep understanding of traditional, digital and business analytics

Despite the big surge of need in this area, I feel like we’re still light here. Sure, most people have a cursory understanding of Facebook Insights, Google Analytics and a few other platforms at this point. But, do those people understand how to take that data and translate it into actionable ideas and approaches? That’s where it feels like we’re light. Every time I see a company here in Minneapolis searching for an analytics person, it seems like they struggle to find the ideal candidate. Opportunity here all over the place.

6: Understanding how to produce reports that make sense to clients

While SEO skills are still important and made my 2012 list, I’m seeing a new skill set emerge (well, emerge probably isn’t the right word–I’m sure this need has almost always existed) that’s much more critical: The ability to produce reports with context, actionable intelligence and clearly articulated next steps. So often, I see reports from partners and other agency vendors and they’re almost non-sensical. If I’m the client, I’d be left to think: “What do I do with this?” The key with solid reporting is to not only report on the data–but more importantly, to make that data come to life. Provide relevant context. Provide ideas as outcomes of the data. And, always, always cull the data down and present it in terms the client can understand.

7: Ability to develop a visual style for brands online

Sure, many larger brands have internal creative departments who are dedicated to this sort of thing. But, a lot of brands don’t. And, that’s where it can typically fall to a PR counselor to fill in the gaps. Regardless of size, PR pros play a large role here. For example, think about social content. A BIG part of that right now is obviously visuals. So, have someone who have an eye for photography and a good feel for how to position the brand visually online matters. Actually, it more than matters–it’s becoming essential.

8: Ability to write clearly for external AND internal audiences

Today’s PR pro is being asked to do more–not less. That often includes writing for external audiences in a traditional PR sense, but also writing for internal, employee audiences. Not exactly a new development, but I feel like more PR people are being asked to do this in 2016 vs. 4-5 years ago. What’s more, with the onset of more employee social advocacy programs, PR folks are often being asked to lead those initiatives, too. That means understanding what motivates and inspires employees–as well as those writing skills (which are absolutely essential).

9: Managing virtual teams AND ability to work effectively as part of a virtual team

As I pointed out on the blog last week, I see virtual work environments as as HUGE trend in the next 5-7 years. That means understanding HOW to work virtually will be a key skill set among PR folks. And, it’s not as easy as you might think. Understanding your ideal work flows, the best tools to use, and how to best use those tools to collaborate and communicate quickly become key when you’re working remotely most of the time.

10: Identifying and collaborating with influencers from Instagram to YouTube to bloggers

4-6 years ago, everyone was talking about blogger outreach. And for good reason–blogs were still largely the dominant cog in the social media machinery. Fast forward to 2016, and you now have platforms like Instagram and Snapchat that simply weren’t around 4-6 years ago. And, you have influencers on those networks who are commanding serious attention. What’s more, you have brands that are having a tough time getting started and building communities on those platforms. Enter influencer outreach–which has become a critical skill for PRs. Knowing how to find the right influencers. Knowing how to approach them–without offending them. Knowing how to draw up contracts that make sense (because, in essence, influencer outreach is almost all pay-for-play now). These are the traits of today’s PR when it comes to influencer outreach.

photo credit: Mechanical Pincer via photopin (license)




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