Your future in PR depends on your willingness to learn & adapt


Recently I spoke at a Panel Event organised by Firebrand Talent about the Evolution of the PR Professional. When it came to question time, there seemed to be a lot of confusion about:

  1. The ongoing impact of digital and
  2. PR’s place in an integrated strategy.

It’s on these two issues I’d like to distil some of my thoughts that I shared on the panel.

Firstly I think it needs to be said that the PR industry is in great shape — possibly in the best shape it’s been in years. We are having more conversations with the senior stakeholders of organisations and they are very open to strategically-lead activity, driven through public relations. This means “we” are being seen as the lynchpin for a lot of integrated work — a position that was held by other groups of professionals in the past.

Where there is opportunity and progress in PR, there are also trials and learnings 

For me this comes down to PR folk being able to elevate their thinking while also showing a willingness to understand, explore and deep dive into other areas like media buying, SEO, optimised content, internal communications and other mechanics that enhance the customer experience.

For those in leadership positions in the industry, this leaves us with a training and enablement challenge, as well as a recruitment one. It’s a burden I think we should relish to ensure those coming up through the ranks reach their potential as strategic enablers of organisations, not just puppet masters behind the curtains.

I’ve never been comfortable with a traditional notion of what PR is supposed to be. We have a lot of clever people in the industry that shouldn’t be pigeon-holed. They have great potential to deliver across multiple channels, but this philosophy needs to evolve at an operational level to unlock integrated work and organisational value.

How do we ensure we’re best positioned to capitalise on this?

  • Something I’ve blogged about over the years is ‘curiosity’. It’s not a skill, but a trait that enables skills development. If you don’t have an appetite for questioning, you are behind the eight-ball.
  • In terms of skills: strategy and planning is becoming more important at an integrated level. Social media is core — but beyond community management, I still believe the greatest value that PR can have is in feeding off those insights to re-architect organisational behaviour from the inside out. You need to have experience in process mapping and critical thinking to do this well.
  • Mentoring is a great way to get exposure to this and really important in staying across the industry as it changes. So while I think having a PR mentor is great, supplementing that with mentors from Creative or Media is even better.
  • The greatest opportunity then is what questions do you ask of these people. This requires humility and bravery.

These 3 simple questions are a great starting point if you truly want to thrive in PR:

  1. How do you maintain a ‘team first’ desire? Because this is not a place for individual heroes.
  2. How do you stay hungry to learn and teach? As this reciprocal attitude ensures you stay fresh.
  3. How do you keep your priorities in order? Someone who understands how an insight informs a strategy and drives creative tactics, while having an appreciation of how to best measure the impact, from the outset, is the kind of person that will reach the top. I think too often we over complicate this.

Keep these three things in mind and not only will you be well placed, but the industry will stay in great shape!


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