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March 30th, 2008

New Skills For Young PR Pros

Mike Manuel Talks with Chico State Students


p>So last Friday, half a dozen students from Chico State’s journalism program (my alma mater), came to Voce’s Palo Alto office and spent the day observing and discussing agency life.

As part of this visit, I spent some time talking about the web and its impact on the PR industry. It was one of those discussions where unfortunately you just end up having to go a mile wide and an inch deep on things, however, one question shook out of this talk that I thought other students and new grads might find interesting and helpful, I’ll elaborate on it here. The question was pretty simple:

What new skills are important to PR?

A great question, one I could chew on for a while here, but if I had to pick three things, I’d say:

Learn Another Language Seriously, as communicators, if you really want to be successful using your first language, consider learning a second — HTML. It’s a universal language that’s becoming critically important in PR, especially as the reach and influence of the web continues to shape and inform market opinions and perceptions. I think having some basic knowledge of HTML gives you a small leg up when, for example, you’re using a tool, such as a blog in business. It also provides you with a better understanding of how metadata, markup and the like all quietly work together behind the scenes to aid in the discovery and distribution of what you’re ultimately communicating via the web.

Learn Conversational Communication This is admittedly harder than it sounds, and dangerous too, but it’s about learning a different style of communication, one that separates things like AP style and institutionalized standards of “business talk,’ from more informal and colloquial forms of writing and discourse. It’s important because the vehicles for communication are changing. We’re no longer confined to emails, or press releases or static corporate web pages. Yes, we’re still using these mediums, but we’re also communicating via blog posts, in comment threads, on IM and through other forms of media. The dangerous part of all this, particularly for those new to the workplace, is just learning to determine when this style of communication is advantageous, and, well, when it’s not.

Learn Media Production Understanding how to plot, plan and produce media, particularly video, is important. It’s another communications tool, one that more companies are adopting as the cost and labor barriers to production continue to lower. Having some basic knowledge of composition, sound, lighting, and editing, is a skill set that has a lot of utility — be it an agency or inside a company. I’ll also add, understanding basic distribution techniques and services, like RSS enclosures, aspect ratios, iTunes directory submissions, etc., is helpful.

Again, there’s much more I and I’m sure others in the industry would say are important skills. Ultimately, however, it’s about getting the fundamentals right, first. It’s about learning to dribble, pass and shoot before you worry about learning how to dunk, but hopefully this helps.

About the Author
Mike Manuel is the GM of Voce Connect, the social media marketing and web development arm of Voce Communications. In between managing this team and overseeing Voce's digital programs, he'll post a thought or two on mike-manuel.com and via @mmanuel on Twitter.

Filed in Career Development, Public Relations, Social Media

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