Key PR skill gaps revealed in PRmoment skills survey

The PRmoment skills survey has found important skills gaps in the UK public relations labour market. The survey, completed in partnership with the PRCA, compared the recruitment demands of public relations hirers with the skill sets of public relations candidates.

A worrying finding that came from the survey revealed that some skills that are considered important, are also considered to be missing. Julian Davies, Managing Partner at Redfin, explains: “Where there is a high percentage of people thinking that a skill is important, we would hope that a low percentage would feel this skill is lacking.” For example, Davies describes how writing skills are seen as important by 85 per cent, yet 40 per cent say their business has a shortage of these.

Most important skills VS Most lacking skills: 

Not all important skills are lacking, however, as shown by the fact that 83 per cent think communication is a key behavioural skill, and only 23 per cent say there is a shortage of this skill in their organisation. One interesting finding, says Davies, is that only 38 per cent of respondents consider thought leadership to be an important skill, and even fewer think it is lacking. Perhaps this is because these are skills most people possess.

You would imagine that knowing what skills your people have (and what they don’t) is a fundamental part of running a business. Yet only around one quarter of PR organisations have carried out a skills audit in the last year. Discussing this finding, Heather Scales, HR consultant at Redfin, says: “Knowing how important it is for companies to have the right mix of skills to ensure they can deliver the right service, we were surprised that less than a quarter of companies had carried out a skills audit in the last 12 months.”

Differences between in-house and agency

Most important skills - Comparison between PR Agency and In-House:

Comparing the skills between in-house and agency shows there is a fairly high degree of agreement. Davies says: “There was a general consensus between in-house and PR agency views and both quite clearly feel that the traditional core skills of writing and media relations are the two most important technical skills. Both also agree that communication, planning and organisation are the three key behavioural skills – although the PR agencies ranked communication higher than in-house, and in-house ranked planning and organisation higher.”

Ben Smith, publisher of PRmoment adds: “This blows the theory that you are either suited to being an in-house PRO or an agency PRO, as the skills required for both are broadly similar.”

Which skills do you think are the most important? 

Key findings:

  • Both in-house and PR agencies feel writing and media relations are the most important technical skills, yet 53 per cent of PR agencies and 36 per cent of in-house say writing skills are lacking.
  • The most important behavioural skills are communication and planning and organisation. Here only 15 per cent of in-house compared with 28 per cent of PR agency respondents feel communication is lacking, were 40 per cent of in-house and 35 per cent of agency PROs feel planning and organisation are lacking.

Which skills are most lacking? 

Despite the broad similarities between agencies and in-house, there are a few interesting exceptions. Davies explains: “Influencing is considered much more important in-house (50 per cent) than in agency (19 per cent). Also, in-house respondents consider having a specific discipline or sector knowledge is much more important than agencies do. This may be because an agency needs to be more versatile as each client has different needs.”

“Surprisingly, in-house people consider social skills much more important that agency people do. PR agencies may see this as a skill that can be bought in, rather than having staff with in-depth knowledge. Not so surprising is the PR agency view that client services are very important (62 per cent) compared to in-house (20 per cent).

Ben Smith, Founder of PRmoment concludes: “Public relations is a market in disruption, it is undergoing huge change. The skills sets required in PR now are radically different to 2/3 years ago. On the buy side of PR recruitment it seems many PR teams have an uneven balance of skills required for today’s public relations market. On the sell side, candidates need to look at the skills required and embrace these new areas so that they don’t become PR dinosaurs.”


The research was commissioned by PRmoment and carried out by Redfin’s HR consultancy and in partnership with the PRCA using Censuswide technology. The survey covered 300 people within PR agencies and in-house PR departments. The aims were to understand which skills are thought to be important within the industry and which skills, if any, are thought to be lacking. Another aim was to find out how often companies carry out skills audits and establish whether they have relevant skills.  

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