7 Skills Every Public Relations Specialist Needs

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A PR specialist stands at a podium giving a presentation.

The time has come. You have your master’s degree in hand and are on the hunt for your first job as a public relations specialist. To succeed, you know you have to offer potential employers a wide range of skills. These can range from critical thinking to attention to detail, but there are seven skills that potential employers particularly look for in communication graduates and candidates for PR specialist positions.

1. Communication

More than any other skill, communication is the one you will use every day when working in this field. You must be able to communicate your thoughts clearly and be an excellent listener. As a public relations specialist, you also need to be socially aware while communicating. It’s important to pick up on the slightest change in tone or emotion during a conversation. Additionally, you cannot let your own emotions color your message. Tips for improving your communication skills include:

  • Be mindful of your body language
  • Practice active listening
  • Be succinct and communicate with empathy

2. Writing Ability

Along the same lines, you must possess the ability to write captivating content. A strong grasp of grammar and attention to detail will make a huge difference in your writing. You should be able to walk into a job interview and present samples of articles, press releases, or copy you have written. Blog samples are another great way to show potential employers that you know how to write for new media. Tips for enhancing your writing capabilities include:

  • Understand your audience, and choose your words and grammar accordingly
  • Keep sentences short, and use clear, easy-to-understand language
  • Write (and stick to) an outline

3. Understanding of Social Media

Social media has redefined communication between public relations specialists and their audiences. Having a strong understanding of social media does not mean that you know how to like a friend’s Facebook post or regularly post Instagram updates. It means that you are knowledgeable about how to use social media to manage a potential employer’s brand voice, that you understand the fundamental differences between individual social media platforms, and that you know how to use those platforms as tools for communicating with the public. In modern business, understanding how to use social media is a key public relations skill. Tips for using social media include:

  • Know each platform’s audience
  • Know which types of messages work best on each platform
  • Post interactive content, such as polls, to increase users’ interaction with the company’s brand

4. Multimedia

Multimedia skills play a huge part in presenting online content. As a public relations specialist, it is important that you have at least a basic knowledge of how to manipulate various types of media. You may not be a blogger, but familiarity with where and how to post a blog is greatly beneficial. Additionally, having a basic knowledge of Photoshop, YouTube, SEO (search engine optimization), and coding will make you more attractive as a potential hire. Tips for using multimedia include:

  • Use high-quality images
  • Be open to infographics
  • Understand when to use video content

5. Creativity

Creativity is not just for artists; PR specialists are called upon to be creative all the time. Whether by writing, coming up with a new approach to an old idea, or finding a way to attract new customers, public relations professionals are constantly required to be creative. If you can think outside the box and come up with ideas that others haven’t thought of, you’ll be better able to make your clients happy. Creativity is the key to success in this industry. Tips for improving your creativity include:

  • Generate more ideas than you think you’ll need
  • Embrace background music
  • Understand the time of day you’re at your best

6. Attention to Detail

Attention to detail is among the most important public relations skills you’ll need to develop. Communication professionals must understand how to craft messages and stay on point. Whether you need to send out a press release or write online content, creating an error-free final product is crucial. Remember, small mistakes not only reflect poorly on the organization you work for, they can derail a campaign altogether. Tips for improving your attention to detail include:

  • Slow down
  • Give each task your full attention
  • Reread content several times before clicking “send” or posting

7. Honesty

Individuals working in communication need to have stellar reputations. They must be honest, upfront, and not afraid to tackle PR crises head-on. Stay away from spin and instead focus on being truthful. Not only will this boost your credibility, it can improve the image of the company (and the brand) you represent. This isn’t just a trait that’s needed when relaying messages to the press and the public. If your employer or client suggests a course that you think could be problematic, it’s important to let them know. Tips for being more honest include:

  • Understand who you are (and don’t try to be someone else)
  • Be upfront
  • Don’t embellish or use alternative facts

Over the next few years, it is projected that there will be employment growth for public relations specialists, and those who possess these key skills will be in the best position to reap the rewards.

Recommended ReadingsCrisis Communications: 2021 and Beyond

Communication Management: 13 Careers in Communication

Building a Communication Plan in 2021: Take These 4 Steps

Sources:

Hootsuite, “9 Types of Social Media and How Each Can Benefit Your Business”

Inc., “16 Ways to Be More Creative”

Marketing91, “How to Be Honest? 14 Ways to Be Honest and Practice Honesty”

The Muse, “Why Writing Skills Are Important for Every Job — and How to Improve Yours”