The PR pro of the today: What do employers really want?

Last week, I gave a presentation at a local conference for public school communicators and PR professionals named Minn SPRA. The topic they asked me to speak about? The PR Pro of Tomorrow–a topic I’ve talked about on this blog a few times before. I’ll be sharing that presentation in a future post, but I wanted to touch on a subset of that topic today–what employers are looking for in the PR pro of TODAY.

And, instead of me telling you what I think, I thought we’d go to the people who are actually making the hiring decisions. Agency owners. Recruiters. And HR people across the industry.

I asked six agency owners, recruiters and HR leaders from across the country three key questions:

* What’s one skill that every PR pro needs today and why?

What’s one PR skill that you see evolving—and becoming critical to success—in the years ahead?

* What’s the one skill you currently have the hardest time finding in the marketplace as you recruit for new talent?

Here’s what they had to say:

Jorg Pierach, President, Fast Horse

What’s one skill that every PR pro needs today and why?

Curiosity.  The curious are rich in a business where information is the currency.

What’s one PR skill that you see evolving—and becoming critical to success—in the years ahead?

Storytelling.  If content is king, by 2015 it will be Master of the Galaxy and All That Lies Beyond.  If you can’t tell a story in that environment, you will be irrelevant.

What’s the one skill you currently have the hardest time finding in the marketplace as you recruit for new talent?

Patience.  What’s with the hopping around from job to job these days?  I’ve found that the best people in our business are ones who tend to stay in positions for many years, not months. They build strong business relationships and give themselves time to really grow their skills and find a toe-hold. That’s hard to do if you spend all of your time chasing whatever is next.

 

Lisa Simon, vice president of human resources, Weber Shandwick

What’s one skill that every PR pro needs today and why?

Without a doubt, it’s the ability to think strategically by identifying the appropriate vehicle(s) for delivering content on behalf of our clients.  Weber Shandwick just created a new communications framework to help brands excel in today’s diverse content and conversation-driven news environment.  It reinvents public relations: http://bit.ly/qViwud

What’s one PR skill that you see evolving—and becoming critical to success—in the years ahead?

If I answered this question a year ago, or even a few months ago, I would have said demonstrated knowledge of digital communications and social media.  But that seems so obvious, doesn’t it?  Our industry is changing so rapidly because of digital and social media that having these skills is simply the ticket through the door.  The challenge has become finding linkages between online and traditional media and using those connections to expand the storytelling conversations.

What’s the one skill you currently have the hardest time finding in the marketplace as you recruit for new talent?

I’m repeating myself, I know, but I’d have to say strategic thinking within a highly social and information-driven world.


Beth Ward, regional talent recruiter, Fleishman Hillard

What’s one skill that every PR pro needs today and why?

I think all PR pros need to posses solid writing skills.  Public relations relies on content or stringing together sentences to tell a story.  Writing can later be transformed  into pictures, video, games or apps, but in order to create that content you need to spell it out.  The act of writing also ensures that the content will be appropriate.  It forces organization and completion of thought.  At Fleishman-Hillard every candidate we interview must take a writing test which along with personal interviews help us determine a candidate’s creativity, attention to detail, organization and strategy.

What’s one PR skill that you see evolving—and becoming critical to success—in the years ahead?

It’s important to think in concepts.  Because PR counselors have so many more channels to deliver messages beyond broadcast, radio and print we need to think in themes.  Having a theme allows the communicator to build tactics relevant to delivery channels but ties them together so that the objectives and messages aren’t lost in the execution.  Concepts organize and reinforce tactics.  It’s the glue that holds the program together.

What’s the one skill you currently have the hardest time finding in the marketplace as you recruit for new talent?

The rapid changes in communication and the explosion of channels make it hard to find someone who has experience working with traditional media relations, social communications and digital applications.  Our clients are asking for those types of  integrated programs but finding individuals who have executed them at the senior level is challenging.  It’s particularly tough to find experienced, integrated business-to- business communicators.

 

Rebecca Martin, director of marketing operations, Beehive PR

What’s one skill that every PR pro needs today and why?

Curiosity. If you aren’t curious, PR is the wrong field to get into, because our business and our client’s businesses are in a constant state of change. Having an innate sense of curiosity drives PR pros to want to learn more, uncover new insights, offer fresh ideas, think in new ways, ask hard questions, make the everyday exceptional. From interns to CEOs, asking the right questions, doing critical research, and being a voracious reader and learner are foundational to achieving success for our clients – and earning our own professional success.

What’s one PR skill that you see evolving—and becoming critical to success—in the years ahead?

Writing. It might be surprising to list such a core PR skill here, but as communications channels continue to evolve, writing skills must evolve too. Who ever thought ten years ago that a PR pro would be writing news releases based on SEO key words or writing the equivalent of ad copy for Facebook posts? Memos 15 years ago were long, printed out and distributed by hand. Emails today are short, bulleted and hopefully include key points or action items within the “preview” pane. Today PR is in the business of content creation. Tomorrow that will change. Writing is fundamental, but it is forever challenging us to adapt.

What’s the one skill you currently have the hardest time finding in the marketplace as you recruit for new talent?

Confident client consulting. PR pros often are taught to over-service, saying “yes” at all costs and skipping past asking “why?”. This practice can be at the expense of the client’s budget, the PR person’s own credibility and even the best solution for the brand. Many senior-level PR pros simply haven’t developed the skills of confidently, but respectfully pushing back, asking the hard questions, being candid and, ultimately, helping inspire something better.

 

Rachel Kay, president, RKPR

What’s one skill that every PR pro needs today and why?

Every PR pro needs be creative and resourceful.  We’re very fortunate in that our jobs never offer the same day twice, which also means we can’t offer a one-size-fits all solution for clients and programs.  PR pros need to be able to think outside the box and challenge clients to take risks and try new things.  That’s how we learn and grow and create results that transcend the norm.

What’s one PR skill that you see evolving—and becoming critical to success—in the years ahead?

PR pros need a better grasp of SEO – this is an area that doesn’t have to be outside of our arsenal and it’s important to ensure our clients are getting the most from our communication.

What’s the one skill you currently have the hardest time finding in the marketplace as you recruit for new talent?

It’s pretty simple – I really struggle to find talent that understands the value of research and using what they learn to build relationships. I know when they can’t do that when reaching out to me, they won’t be able to do that for our clients and with key influencers.

 

Gini Dietrich, president, Arment Dietrich

What’s one skill that every PR pro needs today and why?

Every PR pro nee to ds to understand search and how it affects content. With owned media, content is becoming one of the best ways to engage customers, generate leads, nurture those leads, and eventually convert them to sales. While PR will work with marketing and sales to this, it will become a completely integrated process that every professional needs to understand. And search is the part about getting found, which is critical to any owned media program.

What’s one PR skill that you see evolving—and becoming critical to success—in the years ahead?

Reputation management. Typically that’s left to the people who specialize in it, but the skill will evolve as everyone will need to be protective of brands and reputations, especially online.

What’s the one skill you currently have the hardest time finding in the marketplace as you recruit for new talent?

Phew. Just one? I’d say it’s understanding analytics and metrics and how to measure that to gross margins. In fact, our profession is completely missing an understanding of business so it’s really difficult to find pros who get it.

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