The Skillset Needed to
Work in Public Relations
What does it take to forge a successful
career in Public Relations?
20 years ago, the answer to this question probably included a degree,
a little black book of media contacts and a large lunch budget.
However, times have changed.
What are the skills needed
to succeed in the industry today?
Desire, not degree
You don’t need a degree to have a successful career in PR. One of the
most talented PR professionals I know left school at 16 and now holds
a senior position at one of the world’s biggest brands.
While degrees are great, a desire to do
the job to a high standard is a bigger
asset to the industry. That’s often what
separates good PR practitioners from
great ones – the desire to go the extra
mile for employers, clients or staff.
University is a great learning experience
inside and outside the classroom, but just
because someone hasn’t been through
the system doesn’t mean they’re not
suitable for a job in PR.
Interest in news
One of PR’s primary functions is
to create news and generate conversation.
An interest in news and an
understanding of how websites, news
wires, papers, magazines, radio shows
and TV programmes gather news
and content is a must-have skill. It’s
also a good idea to build on this by
understanding what will get people
interested in your story or campaign.
Best way to do this?
Read, watch and listen to everything so
you know what’s hot and what’s not on
the media and consumer agenda and
plan your campaigns accordingly.
Create or organise
Most people in PR tick one of two boxes – they’re either creative or
very well organised. These are both essential skills.
Having the imagination to dream up the
next big campaign or being organised
enough to make sure said idea becomes
a reality are vital to succeeding in the
industry. That’s not to say that creatives
aren’t organised and organisers aren’t
creative but having a strength in one of
these areas is key.
Know a little about a lot
The ability to quickly learn a working knowledge of many different
markets or products is a handy tool, especially for those employed in
consultancies, overseeing multiple clients. You don’t need to know all
the ins and outs of a client’s business, but having enough knowledge
to hold down a conversation about the client and their industry trends
is really important.
The ability to communicate
Seems like an obvious point, but being able to communicate is absolutely essential in
PR. This can be written and verbal and includes listening as well as speaking.
On an average day PR practitioners may
interact with staff, suppliers, managers, clients,
the media, the public and other audiences
so having the ability to talk to these groups
consistently and effectively is important. Being
a good writer is part of this as we now live in a
world where a lot of communicating is done via
emails and tweets. However, the personal touch
of conversation holds a lot of weight in certain
circumstances and verbal communications
shouldn’t be overlooked. There’s life away from
An emerging trend in the last few years has been the growing opportunity for PR to
own the production and distribution of content.
Photos, videos, infographics, websites, apps and
more have become important areas of the PR
business and having any knowledge relating to
these areas would be a big bonus in the eyes
of future employers. An understanding of how
to re-touch images on Photoshop, how to edit
video or how to work with WordPress websites
would make any young PR practitioner a very
attractive proposition to employers. These are
not essential skills but right now they’re very
There are other skills that can help lay the
foundations of a successful PR career, but for
me these form the core. For anyone considering
a career in the industry, advice is simple: dream
big, write well, work hard and consume media
at your desk and on the go and you’ll reap the
benefits as you grow and learn.
Managing Director of Ireland consumer PR consultancy Clearbox.
The agency works with clients in the UK, Ireland and Europe and
was recently named the UK’s Best New Consultancy by the PRCA.
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