As the PR profession evolves—along with reporting structures and PR needs—it's important not to just stay abreast of these changes, but also advance your own knowledge and skills so that what you bring to the table is not just responding to these shifts but preparing for the next stages of evolution in communications.
With that in mind, here are five skill sets you need to have to be an effective future communicator.
Understand the effects of technology
“The industry is moving at breakneck speed,” says Emanuele Breccia, Engagement Director at TBWA/Chiat/Day, handling the Nissan account. "Professionals have to master and understand all the technologies. Artificial intelligence, for example, “is already changing how newsrooms assign and source stories and this will bring a dramatic change. Think how much SEO and Google search changed things, and now you have to understand how algorithms work.”
The growing use of AI also “supercharges investigative journalism,” he says.
The ease with which technology allows rapid dissemination of data also means a greater vigilance on accuracy, he warns. Fact-checking, in an era of charges of “fake news” is more important than ever.
These skills are crucial, Breccia says. “You have to know which stories are driving clicks and views, and which are generating the most social buzz. Stories you pitch need to be inherently shareable and have content optimized for sharing. Agencies must provide content that helps journalists tell a story.”
“Relationships with reporters will still matter, but you need to think like editors—what are the visual assets you’re including? Any type of rich content—photos, graphics, and video—will be king. Immersive content will be the future.”
Favor Integration, Not Silos
Pure-play agencies are on the way out, as the lines between marketing, PR and advertising are more and more blurred. Their roles need to become stronger and more collaborative. “Brands are becoming entertainers, like Red Bull’s Red Bulletin,” Breccia said.
The goal, he says, is to “create a loyal community” since “earned media can't move the needle enough. The puzzle pieces need to come together to achieve a seamless PESO (paid, earned, shared, owned) model.”
This integrated approach, he admitted, remains for now a work in progress. “The right model hasn’t been found or adopted. There’s no one-shot approach.”
Curiosity will be key in the future, as new technology emerges and new best practices. Wanting to understand them and to learn will be key. It doesn't have to be a formal education—you can attend conferences, take classes and seminars and stay abreast of the industry trade press.
“Keep reading!” Breccia advises.
Master Analytics and Measurement
“You must demonstrate ROI and value delivered using analytics before and after a media campaign. We have to move away from fluffy metrics,” says Breccia.
This was close to impossible in the past but now thanks to things like the Cision Communications Cloud and Memo, a start-up that launched in December 2018 which allows agencies to find out how long consumers actually accessed their work, it is possible.
“Advertising and marketing people live and breathe these metrics, so if you want a seat at the table we have to learn these skills,” says Breccia.