‘Listen’ to What Is Now One of the Most Important PR Skills

One of the frequent digs about working in public relations is the accusation that it’s a “soft” discipline, particularly when stacked up against the “hard” professions of marketing and advertising.

But that’s not accurate. Often the accusations come from people who aren’t familiar with the craft of communications and how it aligns with corporate goals and objectives.

There are, of course, several areas of PR that can be defined as “hard,” such as writing, media relations, brand reputation and mitigating a potential crisis.

Then there are the “soft”—though no less key—attributes of communications. They may be hard to measure but, in an increasingly fragmented marketplace, they’re becoming more and more important to enhancing the value of public relations.

The PR News’ 2013 Salary Survey asked what the most important “soft” skills or attributes PR pros should bring to the table in order to advance in an organization, and respondents cited strategic decision-making (90.6%) and collaboration (87.1%) as the top two disciplines.

Listening (55.5%) was the third most important skill, the survey said.

Despite the drumbeat for more transparency throughout the corporate corridors, ethical outlook was one of the least important attributes (18.6%) cited in the study.

The study garnered a total of 1,586 respondents, representing a wide range of industries and PR disciplines. Here’s a closer look at the some of the key ‘Soft’ Communications Skills/Attributes:


For a comprehensive look at public relations salaries, order PR News’ 2013 Salary Survey, which is chock full of tables, charts and analysis regarding communicators’ salaries.

Follow Matthew Schwartz: @mpsjourno1

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About Matthew Schwartz

Group Editor, PR News: Matthew Schwartz is group editor of PR News, the leading source of trends, how-to content and best practices for PR professionals. Matthew leads the editorial strategy for PR News’ premium content products—including its weekly newsletter—and for its digital presence. Matthew was editor of PR News from 2003-2005. Prior to returning to PR News, Matthew was a reporter for Crain’s BtoB and Media Business magazines, where he covered business marketers and media companies. He was also editor of BMA Buzz, a biweekly email newsletter covering B2B marketing, advertising and social media, and contributing writer to Advertising Age Custom. Matthew has helped to launch blogs on behalf of ZoomInfo and direct marketing agency The Kern Organization. He also spent a few years in cable-news precincts, working as a writer/producer at CNN and Fox News Channel.

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  • Through The Lines

    Reading this, I thought of “creativity” as another soft attribute. It’s a useful quality for someone on the team to have, especially with a particularly challenging client or campaign. PR isn’t always the best area for clients to spend their dollars; paid media can make more sense, but if that’s the direction they want to go, it takes some creative thinking to make sure your pitching a story, and not an ad.