Learning to speak geek: The PR 2.0 challenge

With the growth in online and social communications as a fundamental part of communications plans and strategies, its no wonder that with this new medium comes a whole new set of skills practitioners must master.

In the first #PRHangout last week, Andrés López-Varela of Weber Shandwick Sydney, spoke of the expanded skillset required by today’s PR practitioners to effectively recommend and deliver digital communications strategies. We’re all being told “big data” is going to deliver us the insights and stories we need to better understand audience and customer behaviours and activities. Terms like EDM (electronic direct message), CRM (customer relationship management) systems and HTML (hypertext markup language – the web!) were mentioned as as some of the new 2.0 terms professionals need to understand and be able to use or recommend for their clients and companies.

For a generation of communicators who’s skills and value have been placed on understanding media, pitching a story and having a killer black book of contacts, how does this new world order change the skillset or knowledge required for professional communications?

According to Sarah Skerik of PR Newswire, there are three core “types” of professional skill groupings in this new digital age:

  • The traditionalist, who values the ability to write, build relationships, isolate and convey key messages and build publicity strategy above all else.
  • The digital enthusiast, who values social media acuity, digital content production and editing and coding skills highly.
  • The quant, which focuses on data, analytics and how PR integrates with business processes.

The argument I’ve always made about digital PR is that fundamentally, at its core we’re still talking about having the capability to understand and brand or organisation, know what will makes its story compelling and knowing how to deliver or convey that story to the right target audiences to influence behaviour. Whilst technology and the web have presented a new set of tools for us to understand and utilise to distribute or broadcast our message, the fundamentals of storytelling and communications strategy are very similar. Just with a new context 😉

Does this make me a traditionalist? I tweet, I blog, I’m connected via a range of social media networks and have simple coding skills. Can I navigate and calculate social comms strategy ROI or delve into a hefty dataset to gain the insights needed to guide the direction of a strategy? Can I edit video or create a conversation or content strategy, with supporting social platform recommendations? I feel confident in a number of these areas, but in others I feel I’m continuing to grow and develop. This is what makes today such an exciting time to work in professional communications.

Where do you sit on the spectrum of the evolution of public relations? Prehistoric or progressive?

The Evolution of Public Relations

Source: Visual.ly, 2013

3 responses to “Learning to speak geek: The PR 2.0 challenge

  1. Is it wrong I thought of Electronic Dance Music when I read EDM? I guess there are only so many acronyms to go around 🙂

    I think to be successful now and in the future you have to at least be open to the new digital order and learning how it works. Without this understanding, you as a practitioner are ignoring the ‘new context’ of PR and communications practice.

    I think you are progressive as am I. This my no means I am a computer whizz (who could even code this site mind you! 🙂 ). But I am curious and open to learning how new platforms, services and electronic protocols work. Further, I am also aware that the old ways are exactly that. Unless we one day revert back to a world without the Internet and social media disappears then the progression towards purely digital communications strategies will continue and those who refuse to add to their skill set will, in my opinion, definitely find it impossible to operate in that environment.

  2. I believe that first and foremost you do need to be a traditionalist as you put it. Understanding the message is key for any communicator after all. What I am seeing is digital is all about data, so being able to interpret the lovely data gathered from various aspects of social media is becoming just as important. So that I guess makes me a leaning Quant :). Though seriously, who doesn’t find it valuable to be able to provide data such as eDM open rates, web site bounced rates and how many likes or tweets relating to a campaign and then being able to interpret what that means to the business or client?

    • That’s the thing – For business leaders that don’t necessarily get or understand comms, hard and fast numbers that can demonstrate ROI are what’s going to help you secure budgets and resource support for your comms and marketing efforts. Ideally we’re able to be a nice blend of all of these things I think! Of the three outlined, I think I have strengths in the first two, but would need to improve my quant skills…especially for digital tactics and reporting!

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