What Are The Top Public Relations Skills You Should Master?

Key Takeaways 📈 📊

  • Master the Art and Science of PR. Public relations is a strategic communication process that involves managing brand reputation, building relationships with the media, executing PR campaigns, and managing crises. It requires a combination of art and science to spread company information to the public effectively.
  • Data Analysis is Crucial. Understanding how to collect, analyze, and interpret data is essential for measuring the success of PR campaigns, tracking media coverage, and monitoring social media conversations. This skill is vital for uncovering insights to guide strategy and improve decision-making.
  • Storytelling is Key. Crafting compelling stories that resonate with target audiences is a fundamental PR skill. It involves identifying key messages, using strong writing skills, and being creative to generate media coverage and build influencer relationships.
  • The Gift of Gab is Your Superpower. Being able to strike up conversations, build rapport quickly, and make a good impression when pitching stories or managing clients is a valuable skill in PR. It requires being articulate, thinking on your feet, and handling different personalities with ease.
  • Build Strong Relationships. Successful PR professionals build and nurture relationships with journalists, influencers, and clients by providing value without expecting anything in return. This reciprocal altruism is not just a PR skill but a life skill that can lead to future opportunities.
  • Understand the Broader Business Context. PR skills extend beyond writing and relationship building. It’s important to understand the broader business context, including operations, HR, and internal communications, to develop integrated PR strategies that align with the company’s goals.
  • Technical Skills are Essential. PR professionals must be proficient in using media databases, social listening technology, and media monitoring software to organize information, track conversations, and measure the performance of PR campaigns. These technical skills are crucial for staying ahead in the ever-evolving PR landscape.

The PR industry is highly competitive. What are you doing to stand out? Start with learning the most important PR skills.

Why this matters: There is a surplus of candidates working in public relations. The industry is highly networked, and job opportunities are often offered to referrals first. Building your network is a given. But you have to learn new and innovative PR skills, too.

A Quick Definition of PR

Public relations is the art and science of spreading company information to the public. It is a strategic communication process that involves managing brand reputation, building relationships with the media, executing PR campaigns, and managing crises.

In college, PR skills are taught in marketing and communications programs. However, many PR pros have a background in journalism, English, or other liberal arts disciplines. No matter what your educational experience is, there are essential LinkedIn skills for public relations pros to master to be successful in their careers and become trusted advisors. These are the things I teach in my SJSU Public Relations class.

The Top Public Relations Skills You Need to Master Now

There are five PR skills that you need to master to be successful in working in this field. Some people are born with these skills, and others have to learn them throughout their careers:

PR SkillsDescription
Understanding DataKnow how to collect, analyze, and interpret data to measure campaigns, track media coverage, monitor social media, and uncover insights to guide strategy.
StorytellingIdentify key messages and craft compelling stories that resonate with target audiences, using strong writing skills and creativity.
Gift of GabStrike up conversations, build rapport quickly, think on your feet, and make a good impression when pitching stories, influencing, and managing clients.
Relationship BuildingGive value without expecting anything in return to build strong, reciprocal relationships with journalists, influencers, and clients.
Strategic Business ConsultingUnderstand the broader business context including operations, HR, and internal communications to develop integrated PR strategies.

Understand Data

In the age of big data, it’s more important than ever for PR pros to understand how to use data to their advantage. Data can be used to measure the success of campaigns, track media coverage, and monitor social media conversations. Therefore, it’s essential to know how to collect and analyze data to gain insights that will help your company make better decisions. This skill is even more critical if you want to be a social media manager.

You don’t have to be a data scientist to interpret data. However, it would help if you understood the basics of data collection and analysis. The good news is that there are tools that can help you.

There are a few ways to think about data, and I’ll make it as simple as possible. The first is performance and measurement. This means you need to know how to prove the value of earned media and put some numbers behind it. As a PR professional, you deliver value to the company using public relations and earned media. If you can’t answer that question, you may not be in the right field.

The second is understanding what the data tells you about social trends and how they might impact your business. This means digesting information, finding patterns, analyzing coverage, and providing strategic counsel.

The last way to think about data is to use it to inform your PR strategy. You must learn to use data and insights to uncover media opportunities and market white space. In other words, you can use the insights to inform your content strategy, paid social, and even a more extensive campaign or brand narrative. But, again, these aren’t just PR skills; they are skills for business.

Become a Storyteller

A PR pro’s job is to tell stories that generate media coverage and build influencer relationships. Therefore, you need to identify the key messages you want to communicate and craft a story that will resonate with your audience. To be a good storyteller, you must have strong writing skills, be creative, and think beyond products, services, or company messaging.

Understanding how to write good headlines, a hook, a lead-up, and a payoff make up a good story. Sometimes, this takes practice, but the more you do it, the better you’ll be long-term.

Good storytellers can take a complex issue and make it relatable and attractive to a journalist, reporters, influencers, and an executive. You will have to help your executives craft a story for the media, and this is one of the public relations skills you should master.

Master the Gift of Gab

Have you ever seen Boiler Room with Vin Diesel? This clip shows Vin showing a new salesperson how to prospect a client, overcome objections, and close the deal. This is the gift of gab. This means being able to strike up a conversation with someone you just met, build rapport quickly, and make a good impression. Watch below.

You must pitch ideas to the media, build relationships with influencers, and manage clients. The challenge is that many people have egos or can be rude. You need to be articulate and can think on your feet. You can’t let a bad attitude get you flustered or ruin your craft. This is one of those PR skills that can take a while to master.

Be Good With Relationships

For PR pros to be successful, they must build and nurture relationships. There’s a concept I heard years ago called reciprocal altruism, which means to “give without any expectation of receiving anything in return.” This is so much more than a public relations skill. It’s a life skill.

To work in media relations, you need to build relationships with journalists. You do this by providing value and being relatable. And don’t forget the “gift of gab.” For example, ask yourself what you can do to help them do their job more effectively, even if you don’t have any news. It could be a quote, information, or a data point. If you give, they will give back to you in the future.

Again, not just a PR skill but a life skill that you can use for every relationship.

Learn Strategic Business

Public relations skills are more than being a good writer or having solid relationships with the media. First, you need to understand the business context. This usually comes with experience because if you are starting in PR, you may not understand the broader business concepts like the supply chain, retail channels, customer and sales operations that make a business work and function, DE&I programs, employee relations, and internal communications. Each element is essential to think about and plan for when creating a PR strategy.

Understanding these issues will help you plan for pitfalls or reputation issues that may negatively affect brand reputation within the news media.

What are The Technical Skills for PR?

A recent PR analytics report states that 75% of PR pros say their technical skills are between “good” and “excellent.” However, they need to be excellent. PR pros must learn to use a media database, social listening technology, and media monitoring software.

A media database is essential for organizing and storing information about media contacts, like journalists, bloggers, and influencers. There are several media databases in the market. Cision is probably the most well-known, but there are others.

Various social media technologies can track conversations across social media channels and the media to identify relevant newsjacking opportunities or respond to a crisis. Newsjacking is the act of hijacking the news cycle, pitching a story that is relevant to what is already being discussed in the market. Media monitoring software tracks media coverage and is often used for measuring the performance of ongoing PR campaigns and programs.

If you are a student majoring in PR, Communications, or Journalism, you won’t learn these PR skills in class.

What Other PR Skills Should You Master?

PR SkillDescription
Strong WritingAbility to write well across formats like press releases, pitches, blog posts, etc.
Event PlanningPlan and execute events of all sizes from small meetups to large product launches.
Project ManagementOversee all aspects of PR projects including budget, timeline, vendors, and more.
Attention to DetailProofread work thoroughly and catch errors. Remain detail-oriented in all planning.

Beyond core competencies like data fluency and relationship building, several other skills prove critical for PR success.

Strong Writing Skills

Strong writing remains an essential PR skill across formats. Whether crafting a press release, media pitch, or blog post, articulate and compelling messaging forms the foundation. Savvy PR pros must become masters of the written word.

Sharpening writing takes continuous effort. Read widely to expand vocabulary and style. Study how top journalists and copywriters connect with readers. Refine technical proficiency through consistent practice and feedback. Writing is a journey. To thrive in PR, commit to the destination of standout prose that captures attention and inspires action.

Event Planning

Event planning features prominently in PR roles. From small media dinners to massive product launches and conferences, flawless execution impresses audiences, while missteps damage credibility. Yet juggling logistics, vendors, budgets, and timelines challenges even the most seasoned PR planners.

Start small to hone this nuanced skill. Volunteer for a local nonprofit gala or association meeting to gain experience. Shadow an expert planner within your company. Build up planning media briefings and team outings. With each event, reflect on lessons learned. Over time, increases scope and complexity as confidence develops. Through practical experience, cultivation, and mentorship, event planning mastery will come.

Project Management

Mastering project management elevates PR pros to indispensable strategic partners. Beyond excellent writing and events, overseeing initiatives end-to-end requires meticulous planning, sharp foresight, and obsessive attention to detail. From budgets and timelines to resources and vendors, PMs seamlessly coordinate complex workings behind the scenes.

Develop this expertise early in your career. Analyze how senior PR project managers operate and absorb their wisdom. Streamline systems to manage workflows. Hone the ability to juggle multiple priorities with calm confidence even as chaos swirls. Project management combines equal parts art and science. Blend technical proficiency with creative vision to ensure every initiative concludes successfully.

Attention to Detail

In PR roles, a typo in a press release or a misspelled name destroys credibility faster than any brilliant campaign can build it. Beyond just proofing written work thoroughly, PR pros must champion attention to detail across all planning and execution. Whether reviewing a creative brief, inspecting an event venue, or confirming a reporter’s title, the devil lives in the details.

Vigilance takes continuous effort and discipline but elevates work quality. Establish rigorous review protocols for any materials that reach the public eye. Double-check details at every stage, from early brainstorms to final reviews. Instill a sense of collective responsibility among teams to flag potential issues early. Turn attention to detail into a competitive advantage by ensuring polished perfection across all touchpoints.

Whether pursuing a degree in PR, Marketing, or Journalism, you should learn paid social media, as it’s becoming the bedrock of digital marketing.

So there you have it, the top PR skills you will learn in college! Remember, these are just a few of the skills that you need to master if you want to be successful in public relations. The best way to learn is by getting experience.

Final Thoughts on Mastering Public Relations Skills

One thing I teach in my class at San Jose State University is for students to focus on optimizing their LinkedIn profiles. Why? Because that’s where many recruiters and hiring managers are searching for candidates.

Make sure your profile is up-to-date, complete, and keyword-optimized. Include any relevant coursework, marketing internships, or volunteer experiences. If you have a portfolio, include that as well. And don’t forget to add a professional headshot and write your personal brand statement.

Start networking now if you are still in college and looking to get ahead of the game. Attend PRSA events, join PRSSA, and connect with other PR pros on LinkedIn. The more you network, the better your chances of landing a great job after graduation!

I have also outlined the top marketing analytics skills if that’s a career path that you want to pursue. You’ll notice that there are a lot of parallels that you should focus on.

If you decide to pursue a career in B2B, there are several resources to learn about the industry. I would recommend subscribing to the Sword and the Script blog, MarketingProfs, and also LinkedIn Collective. And, staying abreast of the latest public relations trends won’t hurt either.

Michael Brito

Michael Brito is a Digital OG. He’s been building brands online since Al Gore invented the Internet. You can connect with him on LinkedIn or Twitter.