As technology changes, so does the required skill sets for any given position. The same goes for journalism and public relations. The emergence of social media is quickly changing the way we do things. From blogging to Facebook-ing, tweeting and editing videos, new grads need to have a wider range of skills than ever.
According to Dave Fleet, Vice President of Digital in Edelman’s Toronto office, public relations practitioners have always been taught and should continue to be taught traditional skills. These skills include writing, communication skills, media relations, good work ethics, attention to details and being proactive. I completely agree with this list. There are essential attributes for working in public relations.
To be successful as a public relations practitioner today requires new skills. It is essential that new grads know how to blog, use social networks and their tools, know what microblogging is and how it can be useful, search engine optimization, RSS, blogger relations (in addition to public relations and media relations) and ethics involved in using social media. Absolutely! These are necessary skills, but most people don’t know how to use them, why they are useful and their potential in public relations.
Fleet says you don’t have to blog, but should have an understanding of their importance and that you should be interested in their uses. I agree and disagree with this. Yes, we should know how blogs can be used and understand their importance, but to say you don’t have to blog to understand this seems ridiculous. I see this as being like writing a book about open heart surgery without ever experiencing it. You just can’t. Social media is hands-on and should be learned in such a way.
All of these skills should also be used in journalism. In a Mashable post by Vadim Lavrusik, some skills that are essential for journalists are listed. With the slow death of print journalism, journalists need to become multimedia storytellers. Lavrusik explains multimedia storytellers tell their stories “through video, text, graphics, audio and photos.” He also says the best way to learn these skills is through hands-on experience. In addition, he says journalists need to practice blogging regularly. This is so true.
I think between the two professions, the new sets of skills that are needed are covered. The need to know not only social media, but programming such as HTML and CSS is a huge need as everything is going online. I am happy to say I am at least familiar with all these skills. Many of them I practice regularly.
The big problem with learning social media skills is that most companies and newspapers are reluctant to adopt them. It seems they think that because it has worked in the past, it will continue to work for them in the future without any change. Unfortunately, this is very wrong. Companies don’t really have a choice but to adopt. It is becoming a “survival of the fittest” sort of situation. Learn it or fall behind your competitors.
On the other side of things, many companies have adopted social media. However, some of them have such strict policies on its use that it is almost the same is if they never adopted it in the first place. I think this Dilbert strip I found, on Lee Aase’s SMU-G website is funny, but very true in the business world.
Lee Aase is the Director Mayo Clinic’s Center for Social Media. I was lucky enough to sit down with Aase in December and discuss social media’s role at Mayo. He told me all of the above skills are essential now in communications. It’s an excellent way to connect an organization with their clients, customers, patients, audience or what ever else you want to label people. He discussed how interaction is key. This rang true as I found during my independent study fall 2009 semester. So what if you have a Facebook page? If you don’t do anything with it, its about the same as not having it at all.
I leave with this: master these skills and you could be very successful. Don’t just master them, though. Participate, interact, communicate. Show you know what you are talking about.