Being knowledgeable with video editing, coding and website development as well as data analysis and research are critical skills for those seeking career advancement, according to more than a dozen millennials in PR and communications who gathered last month for PR News’ inaugural Millennial Roundtable.
Yet they also revealed much of their training is informal, self-taught or learned on the job in what one participant called a “sink or swim” scenario.
They’d prefer a mix of informal and formal classes. Another takeaway: while college grads in PR possess strong data skills and theoretical knowledge about writing press releases, good, old-fashioned media relations is lacking.
The second installment of edited excerpts from the Millennial session are below. The first set ran in PRN May 25.
What skills do you need to rapidly advance your career?
Nicole Newby, senior account executive, Peppercomm: I think one of the big things is catering to blurring of the lines. It’s not enough now just to be a good communicator and a good writer. Writing is always very essential but becoming familiar with… video editing, graphics and Web site development…makes you more valuable as a PR professional.
Meredith Crowder, account manager, W20 Group: I’ll piggyback on that and add you have to think about the integrated view. Think about how does my little PR campaign roll into the marketing and advertising?
Albe Zakes, global, VP, communications, TerraCycle: I think it’s important to be able to understand and analyze data…being able to drive top line and bottom line and tie PR and communications efforts. You have to be able to understand market research, call for and interpret market research and data. And then also what Nicole said…having at least a basic understanding of video editing and graphics...and, as you said, being able to program or code a little bit.
How do you learn to code, edit video and program? Are you getting formal training or picking the brains of in-house talent?
Zakes: I think in-house is a really good way to do it. You know, offering to buy a programmer a couple of drinks and start to pick his mind or take them out and buy them lunch. Or even just looking for books online.
Crowder: I agree. At our company we try hard to work with our peers. We have a millennial committee and we spend time doing one-on-ones and learning from each other. We learn coding and video editing…we learn the most, in my opinion, and the best from our peers.
Mandy Roth, account executive, Peppercomm: We have a very similar program…our digital department will get up and talk about different things…or we’ll bring in outside experts to kind of walk us through something.
Negin Janati, senior communications officer, UN Foundation: The skill that got me far is desktop publishing. We have one designer for our entire foundation of more than 300 people and 25 initiatives.
Zakes: I want to go back to the training issue. In a world of so much data and all-digital-all-the-time, the core functions of PR and media relations always seem to be lacking a bit.
We have a lot of entry-level people with degrees…and they know conceptually what they should do and how to write a press release…but knowing how to deal with a business reporter versus a features reporter or a short-lead media outlet versus a long-lead media outlet [is lacking]… I think it’s important not to get too hollow at the core and make sure that we continue to really know how to work with journalists....
Hillary Goodman, consultant, Gagan MacDonald: I’ve observed that Gen X-ers have a very different perspective than we have about training. So many times they throw you in to get experience and say,‘Well, that’s how I learned.’ That’s well and good…probably 70 or 80 percent of [training] is on-the-job…But I think a piece that’s lacking is the classroom phase.I’d like to see more classroom training and more online, so you can get to it when you have time. I also want training that emphasizes how to apply what you’ve learned.
Roth: In so many agencies we’re hired for specific accounts and if there’s a new need you have to learn it, as opposed to many corporate jobs where there are weeks of training classes. We’re expected to read and learn quickly…And don’t make the same mistake twice…it’s kind of cutthroat…that’s what we’re trying to change a little, [by] learning from our peers and having…classroom training….
So it’s sink or swim?
This article originally appeared in the June 1, 2015 issue of PR News. Read more subscriber-only content by becoming a PR News subscriber today.