Tomorrow’s PR pro: Media producer

 

In conversations with a number of colleagues and partners across the Twin Cities recently, I’ve noticed an interesting subplot emerging in a number of conversations on the hiring front.

Employers are looking for a new kind of PR candidate: media producers.

Huh?

Think about it. What’s the one thing most companies will need in mass amounts in the months and years ahead? That’s right, content. And, when it comes to content, the demands are increasing. Each day.

Text content. Audio content. Video content. Photo content. With many combinations of the four.

And that’s where companies tend to struggle. Organizations typically have different specialists or contractors for each type of content. Video specialists. Writers. Photographers. They’re all silos–and specialists.

I think that changes a bit in the not-so-distant future.

Why? For one, economics. Many companies cannot afford to specialize any longer when it comes to content. Sure, they need quality, but not at a severe cost (and not for every project). At the same time, the talent pipeline is changing.

Younger PR pros are far more adept at photography and video technologies than their older counterparts. And, technology has significantly leveled the playing field the last few years.

All this points toward the notion that companies will be looking more and more for a professional with storytelling skills. And photography skills. And video producing and editing skills. These people exist–just not in big numbers quite yet.

Let me give you a sense for the specific skills I’m talking about and how they might play out in today’s landscape:

* Producing stories via photo. The ideal candidate knows how to frame a photo–and I’m not talking about taking pictures at your nephew’s t-ball game. The candidate will be comfortable with many forms of technologies, including camera phones and editing tools. And, they’ll know the basics about photography including lighting, framing and filters. Think Instagram, not Canon.

* Producing stories via text. An obvious skill that all PR pros need to have. But, consider the fact that you’ll be competing against former journalists more and more down the road. People who know how to put a story together. To be the media producer of the next generation, you need to understand how to write a headline that will get clicks. At the same time, you need to know how to write a compelling lead while using bullets and other devices to make the article/post more scannable for your readers. Think WordPress, Posterous, Tumblr and Google+, not news releases.

* Producing stories via video. Know how to shoot video using basic tools, how to conduct an interview, and how to set up a shoot. That doesn’t mean you have to be an expert–the demands on video quality have softened over the years (although not as much as previously predicted by the Flip-cam rush). Now, it’s easier than ever to record video on the go with smart phone devices that have pretty solid cameras built in (I’ve shot a number of client videos with my iPhone camera–just look what Tom Martin is doing with his Talking with Tom series; shot and produced entirely with his iPhone). Learn how to use editing software like iMovie (easier than you’d think). Learning these video production skills will make you more marketable because right now if PR pros want this kind of work done, we need to outsource it. If you can handle the basics, that means less outsourcing. Which means less cost. Which usually means a happy boss or client. Think iPhone and iMovie, not TV-studio-style production.

* Producing stories via audio. This one’s probably not as key as the three above since audio is a bit more niche, but still a skill worth exploring. You should understand how to run an audio interview including how to set up a podcast, how to conduct an interview and some of the basic technical competencies around audio production. Familiarize yourself with tools like Garageband and Audacity (even thought here are many different tools–take a look at this list). The first step may be subscribing to a few podcasts and hearing how the experts do it–I might suggest my long-time favorite For Immediate Release. Again, think Garageband, not radio studios.

That’s the PR pro of the future–media producer. It’s happening right now in spots, but I see this trend accelerating in the years ahead. The demands on content (and on efficiencies and cutting costs) continue to grow. What about you? Do you see this as an emerging trend for employers?

Note: Photo courtesy of puukibeach via FlickR Creative Commons.

21 comments
rachaelseda
rachaelseda

Great post Arik! When I went to school I thought I wanted to be a News Anchor so I majored in Media Arts and Design (SMAD) and just doubled in Communication so I wouldn't have to take random electives. It turned out to be the perfect match as I began to switch gears with my career goals. Thanks to my SMAD degree I know how to edit video and use multiple design programs which has proven to be beyond helpful. I know that my college (JMU) is actually working on integrating these two majors together for this exact same reason.

My best advice would be to learn this stuff, take classes in it even if it isn't offered in your communication courses. Maybe a bunch of your friends know this stuff but when you graduate college you'll be surprised how much these type of skills are valued. And just like you point it in this post...it's only becoming more and more valuable.

tressalynne
tressalynne

@arikhanson Enjoyed your post - just wanted to tell you since I didn't RT (you already had oodles and I don't like to be redundant) ;)

ThePRCoach
ThePRCoach

Arik, a really valuable post for new PRs. A young PR with traditional public relations knowledge, social media smarts and insatiable curiosity to learn new media will become a hot property.

mmintonnews
mmintonnews

So true Arik! This train of thought is right on target. I believe the Media Producer or "stra-ducer" role will eventually become common place in the field.

SaschaStoltenow
SaschaStoltenow

Yup, crossmedia producer will be an interesting field. And you'll need proper content strategist to fill this with life. We tried to do that for a manufacturer of pharma machinery over here in Germany. When they had the world premier of a new machine generation we developed a lauch campaign. Not only some 200 guest at the fair booth watched live during the first two days, when the machine was shown first, but some 1.000 from more than 50 countries. All streamed live via the web in German, English, Spanish and Portuguese, plus recordings for YouTube in Chinese and French. All integrated in a crossmedia microsite, which you can check out here: http://next.e-convention.net/english/interpack/presentation-fe55/presentation-fe55.html

jessicamalnik
jessicamalnik

Spot on Arik! As a former journo who transitioned to marketing/PR, the most valuable skills are the ones I learned in the field or in jschool. For instance, HTML skills and videoediting.

danamlewis
danamlewis

@arikhanson loved your post today - definitely agree re: multimedia being a key skillset.

sidriss
sidriss

Great advice and very true! This is why my university's public relations curriculum has changed to incorporate media production classes as a requirement. Knowing web design and video production and editing has given me a definite edge over other recent grads. I am now employed at an agency while some of my peers who don't have these skills are still on the job hunt.

Krista
Krista

Great post, Arik, and I agree with the other commenters so far. I've started to dabble in video production in my current job (communications & relationship building) because there simply is no other resource available to do so! It's a great opportunity to learn, as long as my managers are patient with me, but I see the value in adding these skills to my repetoire of overall communications abilties.

JohnNemoPR
JohnNemoPR

Brilliant advice. This is literally the blueprint of how I built a successful PR career after spending more than a decade as a "mainstream" journalist at the AP and other institutions. At its core PR is great storytelling, and the more ways you can skillfully tell a story (video, text, etc.) the more valuable you are to your client/employer. I think this can give newer PR pros a huge leg up on older ones who are refusing to embrace the new reality of how PR works in 2011. And if you're an older PR pro who has "traditional" PR experience and relationships, and if you embrace what Arik outlines above, you can become a superstar in our field because you'll be a rare entity!

Chris McNamara
Chris McNamara

I LOVE this post. I was a journalism major in college and we were always told we're no longer print or broadcast journalists, but multimedia journalists. It makes perfect sense this is carrying over into the PR world. It also makes me thankful I've received training on audio and video editing, along with some photography skills I can use in my PR career!

arikhanson
arikhanson moderator

@sidriss Web design and video production are requirements as part of your PR program? That's pretty progressive.

arikhanson
arikhanson moderator

@Krista That's probably the key way PRs are growing these skills. When I was on the corporate side, I would volunteer for any job that would help me get smarter about digital (at the time). That paid off.

arikhanson
arikhanson moderator

@JohnNemoPR Exactly. It's all about becoming an "indespensible" employee. This gets into the specialized vs. generalist debate, but I don't really see it that way. I see the issue a little differently. The game is changing. You either adapt, or you don't. Those who adapt will have many more opportunities. I think we're seeing that play out now.

sidriss
sidriss

@arikhanson Sorry, video production and editing is a requirement but design is still a suggested elective. Our professors also encourage us to be active in social media and blogging. Some even require it for class projects.

The school is William Paterson University in NJ.