Will we differentiate between digital PR and traditional PR for much longer? Probably not. However, I still think there’s a distinct gap in the skills an employee needs to achieve traditional PR objectives compared to those needed when striving for digital results.
Those working traditionally tend not to focus as much on the data we now have available, which can be used to report on our worth and track how campaigns are doing. This isn’t necessarily down to lack of willingness, but perhaps due to a lack of knowledge about what’s actually out there.
We recruit fairly regularly for new members of our Comms team, so I thought it’d be useful to put together a summary of what we think are the skills and characteristics that make up a future-proof digital PR employee.
1. Be curious…
Different technologies and platforms that can be used to reach audiences are constantly appearing and changing. Being curious about them is one of the primary characteristics of a successful PR employee.
We need people that are using the same tech and seeing the same trends as the people we’re trying to connect with. So, if our clients’ customers are all over Snapchat, we need to understand how we could use it to reach them. If our target audience is suddenly taking part in the latest viral craze, we need to think about whether it’s relevant for us to also take part in it.
2. … But still be cautious
The fundamentals of PR haven’t changed too drastically – I would say two things always have and always will remain the most important:
- The ability to form and maintain relationships: With clients and the media, and nowadays with rising social influencers as well.
- An understanding of what makes something newsworthy: What classes as newsworthy may change over time, but having the ability to understand whether something is newsworthy will always be important.
The ‘newsworthy’ part is the thing you need to be especially cautious about. Sometimes, the fact that something is new is enough to make it newsworthy. But other times it won’t work, and jumping on a viral trend will just make you look desperate. You still need to make sure you’re doing things for the right reasons so you’ll connect with the right audience.
Good planning and risk assessment with campaigns will always be an important skill for PRs.
3. Don’t fear rejection
I’ll never forget my first rejection from a journalist. It hurt. I mean, really hurt. It had taken me ages as an intern to build up the confidence to make the phone call and the journalist just ripped my entire pitch to shreds and told me all the reasons he wouldn’t be covering it.
But I couldn’t just give up – I had to pick up the phone and get in touch with the next journalist (who thankfully was much nicer and covered the story). Too many people fear the phone these days. But although rejection hurt initially, I learned the more you put yourself out there, the more confidence you’ll gain.
Rejection is something you’ll have to get used to – from journalists and influencers, from clients that think your idea is a bit too ‘out there’ (or even from your boss, who thinks it’s too ‘out there’), but the important thing is to develop a thick skin fast and don’t let the setbacks stop you. Persevere, have confidence and you will come out on top.
4. Understand analytics
With digital PR, we have access to a wealth of data about our campaigns. As mentioned above, these resources are largely untapped by those still working more traditionally, but they can make a big difference when managing a campaign. For example, we can now see:
- Exactly who’s talking about our campaigns through social listening (and we can respond to them)
- How many people visit our campaign sites and what they do when they get there
- How many sales we drive directly from our campaign sites or the links from our coverage
- Which publications and websites send us the most traffic and engagement
We’re now in a better position than ever to prove our worth and not be forced to rely on ridiculous metrics of the past, like AVE. We now have real data that we can use to understand our audience, our campaign performance and our worth. Good digital PRs of the future will know exactly how to do this.
You can see all of the roles that we’re currently recruiting for on our Careers page, do get in touch if you think you’d be a good fit for any of them.