5 Essential Skills in Public Relations

A brief history of PR

PR has gone through a transformation phase since the early 19th century. The field has witnessed two of the greatest professionals ever produced: Edward Louis Bernays and Ivy Ledbetter Lee. The former is referred to as the Father of PR, whereas the latter is remembered as the founder of modern PR.

Both contributed massively to what we know as PR today. Ivy Lee is best known for his work with the Rockefeller family; he advised them to start their own foundation and invested in philanthropic work. Edward Bernays is popularly known for propaganda, his first campaign ‘torch of freedom’ is one of the best publicity stunts in history.

PR is a management function which has the power to change people’s perception and influence public opinion in favour or against the situation. The various facets of Public Relations are Behavioural change, Crisis management, Image building, Reputation management and Public policy. Individuals or large corporates use these to enhance their trust.

You might wonder what any of this has to do with the title of the blog. I believe one has to be aware of the kind of work done in the past to develop the necessary skills for PR.

Below I have highlighted the 5 most important skills I think one needs to work in PR:

  1. Communication skills – This is one of the important skills, if you’re considering a career in PR. You have to be a good communicator and also learn to inculcate the habit of listening and understanding the other person’s point of view. It is also important to interact with different stakeholders for your client. To master this skill you have to be street smart and observe subtle nuances and culture because you will be interacting with wide a range of individuals through various platforms like social media (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter), Traditional medium ( Press Release, Authored article blog post) among others.
    With growing emphasis on Digital media, it is important to be proactive and reach out to your audience because now customers want to interact with brands directly.
  2. Research skills – A PR person should be proficient and carry out lots of research. It plays a significant role in pitching a story to the journalist, drafting speech and other reports in your career. It gives you an added advantage while communicating with other stakeholders. You have to have accurate information on different subjects; you should be up to date with the current affairs. A strong command of Marketing, Sociology, Psychology and Branding will take you ahead in your career, trust me, if you’re inquisitive, you’ll enjoy this aspect of your job.
  3. International Perspective – An international and multicultural cultural mindset will help you in adapting to different culture and people. When you attune to people you will realize that there are a lot of cross-cultural differences, every country is different in their own way. A message that will work in India might not work in a western country; a good PR person appreciates and anticipates these differences. Fluency in multiple languages is a plus because it will help you interact with many different people on a personal level.
  4. Creative Thinking – We have arrived at a point in PR and marketing communication where products or service offering are becoming obsolete within a quarter or a year. In order for you to give the best advice to your client, you will have to think out-of-the-box so that you can capture your customer’s attention in a fragmented market. It also means gauging when to take a risk and thinking creatively in such a way that no one has ever thought before. Having a creative bent of mind will bring success in your professional life.
  5. Social Media Skills – PR professionals must be aware of all the various forms of social media; they should keep themselves updated with various tools search marketing (pay per click and search engine optimisation), internet marketing and digital marketing. At times the same kind of messaging won’t work for every platform; some platforms need different messaging. Google Analytics and Google AdWords certificate programme will help you to boost your profile; a good PR person not only knows which platform to use in various situations, but also how to use each platform to its fullest potential.

-Hassan Mujtaba

Hassan is working as an Associate Account Executive at Adfactors PR based out of Mumbai. He holds a degree in Business Administration from Utkal University and has a Post-graduation diploma in Public Relations and Corporate Communication from Xavier Institute of Communications (XIC), Mumbai. He is a voracious reader and loves to cook and travel. He can be reached at @hassanmujtaba93 on Twitter and here on LinkedIn.