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PR Education: 5 Traits of the Modern Communicator

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Today we bring you a guest post by Deirdre Breakenridge: author, entrepreneur, PR veteran and CEO of Pure Performance Communications. Follow her on Twitter.

This post is presented by AirPR, a technology platform to increase PR performance. The San Francisco-based technology company is passionate about using data to show the true impact and value of PR.

PR education is changing dramatically to better align with the communication challenges businesses are currently facing.  I’ve been teaching on the college/university level for 10 years. Years ago, my curriculum focused on media relations and relationship building with journalists. Today, the activities in my classroom seek to create learning experiences that aid in molding the modern communicator.

Introducing new skills and competencies prepares professionals for the communication complexities.

From my experience, there are five key traits and skills students need to develop during their PR education in order to be successful in today’s business environment:

1. Students need to learn flexibility and nimbleness.

PR professionals must know how to adapt to disruptive technologies, monitor ever-changing consumer behavior, and stay informed of the media outlets that drive brand preference.

In addition, PR pros can’t be strangers to making decisions quickly and accurately. The nature of communications today is real-time and PR pros must be able to act accordingly.

2. Curiosity is also key.

Students must get comfortable testing technology in and out of the classroom. Rolling up your sleeves to experience new technology is a critical part of the PR professional’s role.

From learning the newest social media monitoring tools for reputation and crisis management, to understanding how Twitter can help identify important influencers who amplify brand messages, hands on practice will allow for future pros to better advise leadership teams.

3. A robust understanding of data and analytics (beyond impressions and AVEs) is paramount.

Today’s PR pro must be willing to cross the PR Tech chasm to dig into data that helps analyze market trends, informs creative pitches, and measures program success by tying different sets of data together to see a bigger ROI picture.

Data should come from within and beyond the PR department. Tapping sales, marketing, and IT for their data helps to build a more complete picture and ensures everyone is on the same page with the company’s narrative.

4. Strong writing is still a must-have, but now PR pros must be able to contribute to a wide variety of platforms while creating custom content for each audience.

Yesterday it was byline articles, Op-Ed pieces and news releases. Today it’s understanding native advertising, creating infographics, shooting videos, writing blog posts, and creating social content for Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

5. The final skill that must be developed is the ability to identify key influencers and connect other parties together based on key interests.

PR pros must understand how to move from relationship building and analyzing to becoming a trusted relationship agent.

Sharpen relationship-building skills by digging deeper into valuable influencer connections, and participating in critical conversations taking place in different communities.

deirdreDeirdre Breakenridge is an author, entrepreneur and the CEO of Pure Performance Communications. A 25-year veteran in PR and marketing, she is the author of five Financial Times Press books including her latest title, Social Media and Public Relations: Eight New Practices for the PR Professional. Breakenridge is also an adjunct professor at New York University (NYU) and UMASS at Amherst.

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