The More Things Change, The More They Stay The Same–Three Eternal PR Skills

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The truth is that the role and impact of public relations has changed mightily over the last decade.

And, then again, they haven’t. Really.

Social media has allowed PR professionals to open direct communications channels with influencers and key audiences; reporters can more easily share their content and there is a much wider variety of communications vehicles available to distribute messages.

As an association executive or member knowing what skills to look for in a PR provider, whether it be an agency, an independent provider, or a potential employee, can sometimes be bewildering. That’s why it’s important to know some of the basic skills a PR resource should offer in order for you to ask the right questions and find the right match for your organization’s needs.

Here are three basic questions to ask yourself when meeting with a PR professional or team.

  1. Can they write and write well?

    Good writing is the foundation of the profession. Today it’s most often how stories are pitched and ideas shared. Writing skills must be sharp and clean. Ideas and information must be shared clearly and in as brief a manner as possible. Reporters and influencers receive hundreds of emails a day. An individual or team that can create and deliver sharp, clear prose that conveys information quickly and simply in a few well-written sentences will break through the noise and clutter.
  2. Do they know your audience?

    A well-researched media list and media strategy are the foundation of an effective PR plan. But arguably the most important step is taking the time and effort to fully identify and understand the targeted audience–What’s important to this audience? How do they access information? What do they read and engage with? How do they communicate? Once the audiences and engagements are defined deciding and more importantly delivering on a media strategy is easy because the key question has been answered: “Who’s the audience?”
  3. Do they offer a 21st century PR toolbox?

    The best stories and press coverage your association will ever receive will never come from a press release. Press releases simply announce and distribute newsworthy information in a well-packaged, easy to consume format. But the unique content and narrative of your organization needs to be packaged specifically for each communication vehicle and audience that you need to reach and impact. For sure, some of your targeted audiences will want a press release. But to reach others, often the hard to reach constituencies may be hooked by a well-done video explainer, a smart blog post, an infographic that grabs the eye or a series of well-executed social media posts across a number of platforms. The same news needs to be repurposed for each platform based on your target audience. Press releases aren’t the only tool in the PR toolbox.

In conclusion, to meet an association’s communication needs today’s PR professionals and teams need to embrace new technologies and methodologies while simultaneously improving on foundational communication skills. So, when considering adding a PR provider to your association’s marketing communications strategy be sure to ask these three fundamental questions which will help you determine the right agency, independent provider, or employee for your association.


Bob Olson is a PR Director at Virtual.  He has managed global corporate communications at two Fortune 500 corporations and served as Vice President of Marketing for technology startup companies. 

Connect with Bob on LinkedIn.

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