The making of a thoroughly modern PR professional

What skills do you need to be attractive to PR employers in today’s competitive environment?

Like all agencies, at Babel, we compete for talent. But as I sift through CVs, I sometimes find that the skills most highly prized by PR agencies or inhouse departments, are missing. No candidate can have everything – but as we move into an ever-more integrated world of communication, the basic requirements get wider, and as such, candidates should look to upskill themselves as broadly as possible. This post will explore what I consider the core PR competencies regardless of specialism (planning, creative and the like) or sector.

  1. Media relations

At the end of the day, PR agencies are historically and primarily about ‘earned’ coverage, and a solid media relations foundation is crucial. This is more than just having a little black book of contacts, and involves an understanding of what makes a PR story…. not a story – an PR story… the magic art of mixing the clients’ key messages with the news agenda. Being able to spot, craft and jump off stories is a skill which, in my experience, not all are able to pick-up and demonstrate. Media relations is more than pushing a press release.

  1. Practical digital skills

Digital amplification is central to any communications campaign. Understanding the ins and out of social channels and posting is a given. Ideas should naturally extend over social channels as a communications stream to reach an audience. Team members should be able to generate insights from analytics which can shape this thinking, as well as the execution of these ideas. It is this ability that inhouse teams often lack the capacity to stretch to. Ideally, I want someone who can create content but who also understands what that content should be within the bigger picture.

  1. Design understanding

We’re not all designers – nor should we be, but in some instances, a visual medium is the most relevant and impactful means of communication. As content stretches to its variety of forms, be it imagery, social content, or video, those charged with project managing its creation must have a basic understanding of visuals and design. It is far easier to brief a designer if you understand the world they occupy, the tools they use and the elements they need. At the same time, an ability to quickly and easily manipulate images or look at and correct a presentation from a design and layout perspective, will enable your team to work more effectively.

  1. Marketing awareness

PR, in one way or another, involves communication from an organisation which is looking to position itself positively. It may not sit under marketing in all cases – but it at least has a dotted line to it. As such, team members need to have an understanding of the wider marketing world, the marketing mix and the objectives that this team is trying to achieve. For B2B clients, this means linking with the customer journey and feeding in communications or content at the right times. By seeing the whole picture in context, value add can be delivered.

  1. Spirit

Of all the technical skills you want candidates to demonstrate – one thing needs to stand out above the rest, and that is ‘spirit’. A certain get up and go or entrepreneurism. At Babel, we look for people that can add to our team and culture, who can drive us forward. If your positive spirit isn’t coming across in an interview it can be hard to see how you would help a company. You still need the right skills – but what is your value add?

Every agency will look for different things, and my thoughts are based on what I feel is today’s ideal PR candidate. Where people get these skills is also an interesting debate – as many are not necessarily taught in colleagues etc. More needs to be done to show how certain subjects could lead to a career in communications and marketing. The key thing I would say to candidates is you want a mix. Look to grow your knowledge at every opportunity. Training and investing in people are embedded into the DNA at Babel, as we look to develop individuals and provide the industry’s best to work on our client accounts. If you think you could be the right fit or are looking for a dynamic forward-thinking partner for you communications needs – do get in touch.

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