Communications is changing, but what lessons can we learn from years in traditional PR that equip us for our future careers?
PR has changed significantly in the past few decades. As the readership of traditional media wanes, up skilling is vital. PR professionals need to understand the nuances of multiple niches - social media, influencer marketing, content creation…. It can sometimes feel like our skills have lost relevance.
An old colleague shared a Facebook post recently stating how pleased she was to secure some national media coverage for a client. This was met with a slightly sarcastic, although jovial, comment from another mutual colleague implying that this niche (i.e. media relations) was ‘old school’.
As a PR professional with over 15 years’ experience, I did start out specialising in media relations, and I still can’t help but get a thrill when I secure some press coverage. That’s why I got into the industry – the buzz of briefing a client ahead of a live radio interview, crafting a story and the excitement of seeing your work in print. But is there nowadays a trend to look down upon these traditional skills as something no longer important?
The PR industry has always attracted the young and eager. Does this mean the ‘old school’ professionals will be left behind by those with broader marketing skills? Are those who are familiar with Photoshop, or can lean on their Instagram influencer friends to share content, now more in demand than us dinosaurs?
PR is an ever-evolving industry and learning new skills is never a waste. Being adaptable is a skill itself, but so also are the many skills that we’ve learnt in PR over the years. Many are as valuable, today, as ever, such as:
Writing: I remember, starting out, it always took a while to research and redraft content but with time, you learn the tips and tricks to writing a captivating piece of content. You learn the shortcuts – where to go to find a news hook, who to quote, the language that will entice readers. You learn how to take a two-minute chat with an expert and turn it into something that is 1,000 words long.
Knowledge: I’m not a tech guru, optician, winemaker or app developer. But I’ve written content on all these topics, and many more. Years of working agency side helps you to learn quickly, identify the issues, and tailor communications to the relevant audience.
A world view:One thing I’ve noticed in my years in PR, is that most practitioners are curious, they question things, don’t just take everything on face value. This broader understanding is valuable when planning campaigns. It’s vital to second-guess what a sceptical journalist might think of your approach, to avoid any potential issues down the line.
Account management:When I started out, perfecting contact reports and coverage analysis books was vital. It’s not so relevant any more, but the discipline, professional attitude and organisational skills drummed into us when starting out stay with you and are transferrable across all industries.
Social skills: many years in the industry introduces you to myriad personality types. You learn how to react to people’s quirks, and how to give them what they want. Developing solid relationships with clients, colleagues, the media and other influencers is an invaluable skill that can’t be taught, and only comes with experience.
Building positive relationships is one of the most vital skills or a PR professional, and something that applies to all aspects of business, and indeed, life.
About the author:
Victoria Evans , communications and marketing specialist, President, Public Relations Institute of Australia, South Australian chapter