It might be an exciting, rewarding career, but working in PR is hard work. That’s why the number one quality you need in a PR job is enthusiasm. Victoria Shortt, founder of PR agency Little Red Rooster, says: “I look for passion and enthusiasm. Pretty much everything else can be learnt (I am assuming the candidate can spell here!). Everyone on a PR team needs to pull their weight and be passionate about the clients they work on. If they can't do that all else will fall apart. If we don't believe in our clients how can we expect anyone else to?”
David Alexander, managing director of agency Calacus Public Relations, agrees with Shortt that being passionate is a start, but this needs to be combined with other key skills, including understanding how the media works: “Anyone working in PR must be a great communicator and have a nose for a story. Knowing what will be of interest to the media or other audiences and having the conviction to follow it through from client buy-in to publication is essential.”
Alexander and Shortt are also in agreement that social-media skills are vital. Short says: “I would seriously consider not offering a job to someone if they didn't agree with or understand social media. It's just such an important factor nowadays and a skill a PRO cannot afford to lack."
Independent PR consultant Jeremy Walters says as well as social media skills, understanding search-engine optimisation (SEO) is key. “The must-have PR skill that is criminally neglected in today’s PR world is SEO. Without knowledge of SEO, most PR achieves half of what it could otherwise achieve. For renaissance PROs, the first page of Google is as important, if not more, than the front page of the Times. After all, the front page of the Times lasts one day. The front page of Google lasts forever.”
A recruiter’s view
According to Kelly Hopkins, recruitment consultant within the PR and communications division at Handle Recruitment, the PR market is busy, but employers are very specific about the skills they want. Here she lists the latest demands:
1. Relevant skills, experience and contacts: Hiring organisations, whether that be agency or in-house, are looking for professionals who have worked on similar brands and who have something tangible to offer the business. This could be in the form of contacts and in-depth knowledge about a particular industry to add further credibility to the team and more consultative and advisory value to clients or the board. Recruitment budgets are tight and clients are taking less risk and want to hire as close to briefs as possible.
2. Integrated skills: An interesting trend is the on-going shift in the sector towards the full-service agency – those that can offer integrated marketing/PR/digital/design for instance. This is calling for a broader set of roles than has historically been the case – marketing managers for PR agencies for example. What this means is that roles and skill sets are becoming much more defined and employers are creating job specs with tight criteria.
3. Social media skills: Around 90 per cent of the briefs we receive have some element of social media and online PR so it’s a must have skill whatever your level. You don’t have to be an expert, but being able to walk into an interview and say that you have built online relationships with bloggers or other on-line influencers within your specific industry sector is bound to add weight to your application.
4. Evaluation skills: ROI is at the top of everyone’s agenda. Consequently analytics and evaluation skills are in demand. Although hitting coverage targets is still essential, we’re finding that an increasing number of clients want to see what impact this coverage has and explore whether alternative approaches could result in more success.
5. Techies: There is exceptional high demand for tech PROs for both B2B and consumer accounts and with the number of new tech companies moving into the new “Silicon Roundabout” area we can only see this increasing.
6. International campaign experience: More organisations are looking for new revenue streams beyond their traditional domestic borders and so need PROs who can see the bigger global picture.
7. Senior digital expertise: We are also seeing increased demand for senior digital specialists at director level who can pull all the strands of digital strategy together from winning and developing new business to keeping abreast of developments in terms of new and evolving digital platforms.
Written by Daney Parker
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