5 key skills you need to work in PR (and how to build them)

7th May 2021

Top PR professionals come from all sorts of backgrounds, so there are no particular academic qualifications or work experience requirements that are essential for success. However, you will need to possess a certain set of core skills in order to thrive in the dynamic world of PR and communications. 

In this blog post, we’ve highlighted the top skills that underpin a good PR professional, so you can get a better understanding of whether this is the right career for you. Of course, you don’t need to write off your comms career aspirations if you haven’t yet mastered them all! We’ve also included some tips on how you can strengthen your skill set and boost your chances of landing a role in the industry. 

1. Creativity and an eye for a good story

If you want to secure coverage for your client, you need to come up with unique, exciting campaigns that will capture the imagination of journalists, producers and editors. This means that you’ll need to get used to thinking laterally to generate fresh ideas – often on the spot or in a short time frame. You’ll also need to be able to scour the news and current affairs agenda to pick out trending topics that your client can ‘hook’ their own news or story to.

If you’re someone who is always on top of what’s hot or enjoys seeking out the next big thing, you probably already possess this skill to a certain level. However, if you sometimes struggle to come up with newsworthy or zeitgeisty ideas under pressure, you should start spending more time immersing yourself in diverse media – from blogs and newspapers to radio and Twitter – and paying particular attention to the type of stories that are ‘most read’ and most eye catching. This will help you to better understand what makes a great feature, and what people actually want to watch, read or hear.  

2. Writing compelling and engaging content

The written word is the most powerful PR tool of all, and you need to know how to wield it to maximum effect. Whether that’s writing a blog to drive traffic to your client’s website, drafting a Q&A on behalf of a CEO for a sector magazine or penning the next internet-breaking social media caption, your writing quality matters.

You don’t need to have a degree in English, but if you want to work in PR it’s expected that you’ll have a confident grasp of grammar and punctuation, a wide vocabulary and the ability to write easy-to-digest copy quickly in a variety of styles.

The good news is that writing is a skill that you can learn and practice just like any other. Similar to skill 1, reading widely is going to really help you understand ‘what good looks like’, with the added benefit of improving your vocabulary. It’s also important to ‘flex’ your writing muscles as often as possible – whether that be starting your own blog, keeping a journal, writing *physical* letters or contributing content to a magazine. Don’t be shy about asking for feedback on your work from friends and family members!

3. Multitasking and time management

PR is a sector that’s constantly on the move, and (especially if you’re working for an agency) it’s not unusual to be working simultaneously across several different projects and tasks. It’s therefore very important that you are methodical and can keep a cool head. It’s even better if you actively enjoy being busy and having lots to do and think about!

Everyone who has been through school and university understands the importance of managing and prioritising workload so that no deadlines get missed. These same skills will be invaluable to your PR career.

You probably already know whether you’re the kind of person who thrives under pressure or who prefers a more calm and predictable pace. However, if you’re looking to improve your time management and multitasking, there are a plethora of blogs, podcasts and books offering tips to help you become a pro at juggling and working efficiently.

4. Clear communication and friction-free collaboration 

If you work in PR, you never work alone! Teamwork is absolutely key to achieving the best outcomes, and so you’ll need to be able to work collaboratively with your colleagues – sharing knowledge, offering opinions, brainstorming ideas and executing plans. 

Even if you’re the sole person on a client account, you’ll spend large parts of your day communicating with different members of the client’s team, as well as their customers and stakeholders. When it comes to press outreach, having polished communication skills will really help you to build valuable relationships with journalists and land great coverage.

Any kind of team or group work will help you to build the skills you need to communicate and collaborate successfully. Familiarise yourself with the structure of a great email, explore how you can make the most of messaging platforms like Slack, and create accounts on all the major social media platforms. If you have a phobia of making *actual* phone calls, you need to start practicing now (as this is often the best way to get hold of people).

5. Tenacity and resilience

If you ask anyone who has worked in PR, they’ll happily tell you that being ignored, rejected and ghosted by your media targets is a completely normal part of the job.

But don’t let this put you off! The truth is that top journalists and media outlets receive hundreds of pitches every single day, and sometimes they just don’t have the time or resources to reply to your every email. Although it’s never fun to have your hard work ignored, once you’ve sent those chase emails and made your follow-up calls you need to be able to brush off rejection and move straight on to the next opportunity or angle.

If you’ve ever dabbled in the world of dating apps: congratulations, you are probably already proficient in getting over being ghosted! Conversely, if you are someone who takes being given the cold shoulder to heart, now is the time to start growing a thicker skin and reminding yourself that nothing worth having ever comes easily. The old saying “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try and try again” is incredibly apt in the world of PR!

Of course, these are by no means the only skills that will serve you well in a PR career – and that’s why it’s a job that attracts such a diverse group of people! However, we hope that this guide has given you a better picture of how you can work to grow your own personal talents to suit your career aspirations. 

by Jessica Farmery

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