The great PR skills gap
Date: 22 February 2012 14:10
There is a wide range of skills needed by PR professionals, and it is a rare PRO who possesses them all. Tom Watson, professor of PR at Bournemouth University, says that recent research has identified eight particular skills that help in your PR job:
Knowledge of journalistic and business practices.
The ability to think critically and strategically.
Good skills in written and spoken communication.
Competences in MS Office software.
Savvy use of new media.
Ability to manage time and resources productively.
A positive attitude to work (and a thick skin).
Hands-on experience in developing campaigns.
The problem is that different generations tend to possess different areas of expertise, and they don’t always succeed in sharing their knowledge. This means a senior PRO may have fantastic media relations skills, but be unable to use Facebook effectively, while a junior has the opposite problem.
Francis Ingham, Chief Executive of PRCA, says this may be “stereotyping slightly”, but that he has seen evidence of this through the PRCA’s training and qualifications programmes: “Bosses put their juniors on grammar and writing skills courses; while they tell us that they themselves have been nagged or embarrassed into doing a social media course.”
Sarah McMonagle, PR Manager at CIPR, says that the CIPR is also aware that senior PROs need to develop their understanding of online media: “Our PR 2020 research, conducted last year, highlighted the need for public relations professionals to move faster to develop their knowledge of digital communications. This is explained by the rise of online reputation management which, according to our State of the Profession survey, is the most common and fastest growing area of public relations activity.”
According to PRCA’s Ingham, another notable skills gap that exists is more general, and more lacking in junior levels. “It’s the lack of business skills – being commercially focused and realising that PR isn’t all about being creative, it’s about bottom lines too.”
Fiona Hughes, Head of Consumer at Firefly Communications, discusses other areas in which juniors and seniors can learn from each other. For example, she believes more senior colleagues are better at concentrating: “I find that senior managers have slightly longer attention spans than their generally younger colleagues. Although that could be a result of not growing up with social media and mobile technology!“
Hughes points out though, that more inexperienced PROS come into their own in the way they present information: “Junior execs are, as a general rule, great at using visuals to tell a story, and less wordy and academic. While I sometimes find myself frustrated with the sloppier writing that I know I would not have got away with earlier in my career, I find myself envying the infographic brain.”
Written by Daney Parker