What skills will PROs need to be successful in the future?

What skills do senior PROs most need to develop in the future? According to a paper by Dr Tom Watson and Dr Chindu Sreedharan, from The Media School at Bournemouth University, communicators need to be educated and trained on higher skills than ever before.

The report prioritised the skills required to be a great PR:

Please note: 1 was the highest priority and 12 was the lowest priority.

The report analyses the responses of leading European and international senior-level communicators as to the knowledge, skills, relationships, vision, and managerial abilities that senior communications professionals will need in five years’ time, and what it takes to prepare the next generation of leaders in globally integrated organisations. 

Key findings include:

1. The primary focus for future senior communicators is for training and knowledge of competencies in strategic management, organisation knowledge and cross-disciplinary skills.
2. There was strong support for senior corporate communicators to undertake the role of cross-discipline chief reputation officer; and also to lead on stakeholder relationship development and management.
3. The sixth ranking for ‘proof of performance’ is lower than previous studies where it is normally ranked as second or third. The emphasis was away from clip counts and social media traffic and towards the impact of communication upon business objectives and of value creation.
4. Social media is seen as important development but senior communicators will be the interpreter of trends, not the implementer.
5. Media relations is perceived to be a mid-level communication manager task, other than in times of crisis or major change.
6. The low rank (9th) for culturally-sensitive communication was counter-intuitive, especially as many of the respondents operate already across many countries and continents.


We asked senior agency practitioners what qualities they think are vital for successful communicators:

Nancy Prendergast, managing director at Tannissan Mae Communications:
“PROs need much more international experience. European and Asian market knowledge and languages are great for PROs working here as more and more companies are asking for support beyond the UK. As well as that, PROs need to really know their industry, be self-motivated to stay ahead of a fast-changing media landscape and, as ever, they need to be strong writers.”

David Gallagher, CEO of Ketchum Pleon London and president, Ketchum Pleon Europe, and chairman of the PRCA:
“Imagination, clarity of thought, a grasp of powerful diction – these are all important, but nothing beats empathy as a communicator. Without it, you're just barking; with it, you're connecting.”

Jon McLeod, UK chairman of corporate communications and public affairs at Weber Shandwick: “A strong, senior communicator possesses the ready capacity to encapsulate sometimes complex ideas in simple and persuasive language.”

The study was undertaken amongst senior communicators in Europe and North America and other markets. They were emailed a set of 12 propositions based on recent literature in academic and practitioner press, and asked to rank them in order of importance from 1 (most important) to 12 (least important). There was an option to add other priorities, if they did not agree with those offered. Respondents were also offered the opportunity to make a narrative comment on the propositions before ranking them. Most used the ranking scale but some ranked propositions as equally important or as being 'core' and 'non-core'. The full paper can be found here. The report was commissioned by the Institute for Public Relations and funded by Coca-Cola.