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Journalism trumped by new PR skills

It used to be that journalism and public relations were so closely tied in skill sets that it was easy to jump the chasm. Digital and social media marketing has changed all that. 

A prominent UK public relations recruiter recently made a startling statement:

“We’re contacted all the time by journalists who want to get into PR,” said Ellwood Atfield director Gavin Ellwood. “There was a time when that could happen overnight. Increasingly, that step is not becoming a step – it’s becoming a chasm to cross.”

Public relations today is more complex

That’s because PR today is not just the ability to tell a good story and write creatively and professionally – although that is still highly relevant.

The “father” of public relations Edward Louis Bernays described PR in the 1900s as “a management function, which tabulates public attitudes, defines the policies, procedures and interests of an organization…followed by executing a program of action to earn public understanding and acceptance.”

In August 1978, the World Assembly of Public Relations Associations defined it as “the art and social science of analyzing trends, predicting their consequences, counseling organizational leaders and implementing planned programs of action, which will serve both the organization and the public interest.”

In 1982, the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) said “public relations helps an organization and its publics adapt mutually to each other.”

Fittingly, PRSA used a crowd sourcing campaign in 2011-12 for an update:

“Public relations is a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.”

New PR skills trump journalism

PRs now need the following:

  • A deep understanding of and a willingness to adapt to new technologies
  • Digital analytical skills
  • A global outlook
  • Social media awareness of multi-channel platforms
  • Crisis comm skills that require immediate action
  • A working knowledge of all marketing platforms to include digital, brand, design and PR

It’s no surprise then that recruiters  are calling for a more highly integrated range of skills.

“If you want to get to the top, you need to be able to oversee all of the different elements of PR and communications,” Ellwood told the Public Relations Consultants Association’s panel The Changing Requirements in Skills for 2016.

To be sure, as the profession changes, we continue to change as well, adding new skill sets, embracing new technologies and bringing our clients along with us.

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