Top 5 public relations skills

top five public relations skillsThe past several weeks, as I’ve talked at social media conferences and taught a couple classes for University of California, Irvine online and University of Utah’s professional development division here in Salt Lake City, I’ve pondered what skills are required in today’s public relations industry.

Although a lot has changed since I graduated from college in the 90s, a lot of the core skills that make a public relations professional successful and sought-after, remain the same.

So, here’s a short list of what I think the most in-demand and important skills are for public relations practitioners.

Top 5 Public Relations Skills

1. Writing

You can’t get away from the need for excellent, persuasive, grammatically correct writing. Today’s texting generation may find it difficult to embrace this more traditional public relations skill, but they’ll have to embrace it in order to be successful.

The shift here is that the audience public relations practitioners are writing for has changed. It’s no longer primarily a full-time journalist audience. With today’s social media tools, and the Internet in general, public relations pros write just as much for the end-user, the target audience, as they do for the media.

Also, the writing public relations practitioners do has changed based on what screen they’re writing for: TV, computer, tablet, mobile phone, etc., and what publication they’re writing for: traditional or digital, in a newsletter, email, magazine, blog, newspaper, etc.

2. Creativity

Given the complexity of today’s communication channels, and the amount of information each of us are bombarded with every day (probably more than our grandparents consumed in a year), it’s incumbent upon professional communicators to be creative in how they craft and deliver messages.

Creativity goes into everything a good public relations professional does. It applies to the development of every message and delivery mechanism. It applies to how they represent their employer or client and the kinds of activities and events they produce.

3. Familiarity with Publishing Tools

With the advent of the Internet and social media tools, the public relations toolkit has simply exploded. In a matter of only a handful of years we’ve gone from perhaps a half-dozen media channels to hundreds, if not thousands.

Today’s public relations professional should be familiar with the myriad of traditional and digital communication channels in order to identify the best opportunity for their client, employer, etc.

4. Professionalism

In a profession so often belittled, criticized and made fun of, core values of advocacy, honesty, expertise, independence, loyalty and fairness are important for the serious public relations practitioner.

In 2000 the Public Relations Society of America published its current code of ethics which outlines why those six core values are important as well as core principles for the ethical practice of public relations.

5. Personable

An accomplished public relations professional is good with people. The profession needs people who are uniters, not dividers. People who help others get along and enjoy working to foster better communication in our sometimes confrontational world.

In the words of Michael Jackson, public relations needs workers who would agree with his statement: “I’m a lover, not a fighter.”

Each of these top five public relations skills require continual professional development in order to assimilate best practices and new tools. This underscores the importance of remaining active in a professional association, like the Public Relations Society of America, and even pursing an Accreditation in public relations.


Do you think I captured the most basic, important public relations skills in this top five list?

Are there other skills you think are required in order to make a good public relations professional?

If so, please add your comments to the discussion.

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Top 5 public relations skills

8 Responses

  1. I agree with Mr. Pete Codella. It is all your interpersonal skills to manage relationships.

    Abbas April 27, 2011 at 7:32 am #
  2. As a student in your fantastic University of California, Irvine online class, I have learned quite a bit including what it takes to get the word out there. Although I am not in the public relations field, I certainly need to know enough about public relations to communicate well to my high school students and their parents, for my college consulting business. Your list makes perfect sense to me. As an educator and independent educational consultant, I believe that students must learn how to text effectively and also how to write appropriately for more traditional writing, be it a blog, an article or a college essay. Teachers have the obligation to stress the difference to students and give them opportunities to practice proper writing in the context of their interests and needs. It is always about the audience.

    Rachelle Wolosoff March 19, 2011 at 6:41 pm #
    • Thanks for dropping by, Rachelle.

      I believe PR/communication has broad applications across every industry. That's one of the reasons I choose to become a public relations practitioner – good communication lies at the heart of good business and interpersonal relationships.

      All the best to you as you pursue your new social media goals for your educational consultant practice. If your performance as a student is any indication – and I know it is – I'm certain you're a pretty amazing coach for students and parents focused on college admission.

      petecodella March 21, 2011 at 9:45 pm #
  3. Absolutely agree with your assessment of the skills needed in PR today. To your point re: publishing tools, Cision can help PR professionals navigate the complexities of the media landscape with a variety of
    services and tools designed to plan, distribute, monitor and analyze PR campaigns. Thanks for the post!

    Sara A.
    Advocate of Cision

    Sara March 11, 2011 at 1:37 pm #
  4. Indeed, very good article. It resumes very clearly what a good PR practitioner should be in this new digital era. I would like to have your permission to translate it to Spanish in order to distribute it among my colleagues en South America.
    Héctor Héreter

    Héctor Héreter March 8, 2011 at 8:05 pm #
    • Hector – Yes, by all means, go ahead and translate the article into Spanish. Just be sure to include a link to my blog. -Pete

      petecodella March 11, 2011 at 2:53 pm #
  5. Great minds….
    I had a meaty discussion with Linda Zimmer of Modern Media Institute this week about the skills and competencies needed for Digital PR today. Watch for the results of in-depth research on this subject in the near future.

    Sally Falkow March 4, 2011 at 9:51 am #
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