Gini Dietrich

Six Skills Every PR Pro Needs

By: Gini Dietrich | December 20, 2011 | 

If you missed it a few weeks ago, the New York Times wrote a piece about redefining public relations.

You see, the last time PR was defined was in 1982. Yes, 30 years ago.

And, in the last five years, our industry has completely been turned on its head.

All of the journalists we spent our entire careers building relationships with were suddenly unemployed.

Companies began to rush to figure out how to make money with the newest and shiniest penny.

Paid and earned media had a new sibling: Owned media.

And marketing, public relations, and advertising began the “who owns this” fight.

But we’re entering a new year – a year where all of these things are meeting their mid-level experience.

So it’s time to think about the key skills you need to have going into 2012 and beyond.

  1. Search Engine Optimization. It makes sense that a lot of the content that is being produced comes out of PR. We’ve always been writers and readers. Now we have to take that skill and learn how to optimize our content so it’s being crawled by the search engines, while also being highly valuable and engaging.
  2. Search Engine Marketing. This doesn’t typically fall into a PR pro’s toolbox because it’s pay-per-click and ads. But if you don’t have an understanding of how it works, how to do A/B testing, and what to do with the results, you won’t be #winning.
  3. Content Marketing. Content goes beyond the white papers and advertorials we’re accustomed to doing. It’s videos and podcasts and blogs and emails and eBooks and more. The thing about content marketing is, if you don’t do it yourself, you’ll never truly understand it. Start yourself a personal Tumblr blog, get on WordPress, or even try out Blogger (though it’s not as good as the others). When you are developing content for something personal, you begin to understand the applications it has for clients, as well as how to build community.
  4. Inbound Marketing. This goes hand-in-hand with content marketing because it all about the engaging and valuable content you’re creating. But it’s driving leads. So you’re going to write content that drives people to your site and encourages them to buy. Content that has headlines around what people search. For instance, one of our highest read blog posts is PR vs. marketing. That’s because people search that term and we have content to fulfill their need (plus a webinar they can buy on it).
  5. Integration. 2012 is going to be the year of integration. PR is going to work with sales. Marketing is going to work with advertising. Customer service is going to work with product development. Instead of the silos we’re all accustomed to having, we’ll become a hub where information is shared and the left and right hands know what the other is doing. No longer will we have the “who owns this” fight.
  6. Results. Gone are the days of media impressions and advertising equivalencies. You need to gain yourself some business knowledge (how the company makes money) and some marketing expertise (how to target audiences to buy, using owned media). This is the only way you’ll understand how the work you’re doing is not just generating sales, but creating profit.

It’s a great time to be in this industry. We get to learn, expand our horizons, and get out of our comfort boxes. So go do it!

This first appeared on Buzz Bin, the CRT/Tanaka blog.

About Gini Dietrich

Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She is the author of Spin Sucks, co-author of Marketing in the Round, and co-host of Inside PR. She also is the lead blogger at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro. Join the Spin Sucks   community!

  • has Public Radio changed that much in 30 years? and people are Pro’s in Public Radio?

    i have been told in 10 years PR will only exist for crisis control and that modern technology will allow brands and people to handle the rest themselves. but until then these are some great tips and guidelines. People underestimate the power of search. While the idiots keep crowing about social search, that will always be a segment, never primary. One stat facebook has never put on their stats page is number of searches. it is not very big then. well nothing per person is big on facebook anyway hovering more towards zero than 1 per day anyway per user. And notice celeb never announce stuff on facebook. But twitter has replaced the press conference for many things.

    • ginidietrich

      @HowieSPM You’re such a brat. LOL! I really believe our industry is going to die if we don’t learn to adapt and integrate with our cousin disciplines, we won’t have jobs in 10 years.

      • @ginidietrich@HowieSPM I’ll disagree a bit with Howie, in that I do see a lot of bands using FB to make announcements. Part of the reason is that when you announce something, with a link, it seems to have a slightly more permanent home than a tweet. Individual tweets are far more difficult to access.

        and some of them are using Facebook for it’s live video capabilities.

        Plus, the ones who do it well, won’t focus on platform vs. platform, but will use multiple platforms.

        • @KenMueller@ginidietrich Ken I guess aside from Sarah Palin, what I meant was when I watch or read the news when someone makes an ‘official’ announcement it is almost never on a Facebook Page when it is reported. But I see ‘Announced on Twitter’ all the time. In fact so much I think it is out of control.

          The reason I think it is out of control is that the news outlets from Primetime to Cable news are the ones following all these people on the Twitter.

          But yes as to your point of seeing announcements on Facebook I agree with you. I tell clients to announce in all places Twitter, Facebook, Blogs, banner pulled by airplane along the beach (but that last one only for bar specials!)

          As to me being a Brat! Harumph! I make you laugh once a day @ginidietrich I earn my keep. (unless I go bonkers over coffee waste! lol) Plus the Public Radio is what @Shonali measures.

        • @HowieSPM@ginidietrich@Shonali I think one reason we see the “as announced on Twitter” is that from a media standpoint, it’s easier to follow Twitter. I would bet a lot of those same announcements are made on Facebook. And those that aren’t, it’s probably because those celebs are doing Twitter from their smartphone, but either don’t use FB, or have one of their “people” doing that for them. And it really is amazing when you watch CNN, or major sports events/networks, how often they refer to Twitter.

          BTW, I agreed with your little K Cup outburst, and, I must point out, that I worked in public radio for quite a few years. so measure that!

        • @KenMueller@ginidietrich@Shonali This is a great question for Shonali and Gini. While publicity is one segment of PR, even for Brands it is very important to have their announcements spread by the press/media. Is it a threat to PR that these press/media outlets are following on Twitter/Facebook and bypassing PR for these things? or do you feel the smart brands/people will let a PR person help craft the social media announcements? or is this already happening? And if so to what degree. I mean the kardashian break up and the moore/kutchner breakups seemed to have a social media element not coming from a PR person or assistant but from the people themselves.

        • @HowieSPM@ginidietrich@Shonali I think it just makes the job of PR more important, and shows that PR needs to somehow be involved in the overall messaging (read: integration).

        • ginidietrich

          @KenMueller Don’t debate @HowieSPM on the merits of Facebook. He finds fault in everything they do so it’s really not worth the time and effort.

        • @ginidietrich@HowieSPM Oh, I know. But he and I have some pretty good exchanges. When I talk to him I just pretend I’m dealing with my mother in law…

        • @KenMueller@HowieSPM@ginidietrich Oh boy. Give me a few minutes to catch up… though I don’t know i ever will. I don’t think our industry will die if we don’t catch up, but I do think it will be forever relegated to the “PR=publicity” box. Try as you and I (and many others) might to break out of that box, say “PR” and that’s what people think. So with all due respect to PRSA and every well-meaning person who is trying to change that definition, I honestly don’t know that it will work. If it does, I’ll be glad to eat my words.

          As to whether it is threatening for “PR’s” when the media themselves turn to Twitter, FB, etc. – no, I don’t think so. Guess who’s doing all that? The media outlet’s “PR department,” more often than not. And at the end of the day, the media still need help finding, and telling, good stories. That’s where a good PR pro can make a huge difference.

      • @ginidietrich btw I am taking your statement and emailing it to Kansas and Oklahoma as proof evolution is real vs some theory. ‘Adapt or Die!’

        • ginidietrich

          @HowieSPM Let me know how that works out.

  • skribe

    @queenofejungle They missed the biggest one: Listening. #pr

    • ginidietrich

      @skribe @queenofejungle If PR pros aren’t already listening, we have a bigger problem than I thought.

      • skribe

        @ginidietrich Monitoring isn’t listening. @queenofejungle

        • ginidietrich

          @skribe I don’t think I said monitoring. @queenofejungle

  • CodyMWard

    RT @GinaLuttrell If you’re in PR, there are six skills you need to learn in 2012 rt @ginidietrich

  • ginidietrich

    @skypulsemedia That’s on the secret list.

    • skypulsemedia

      @ginidietrich I was looking at the harvard pulic relations program it included bar mixology and wine tasting.

  • ginidietrich

    @ericamallison xoxo

  • danielnewmanUV

    At risk of spelling out the obvious -> I think these are 6 skills every business needs!

    • ginidietrich

      @danielnewmanUV I agree! But someone needs to own it. I’d like it to be PR, but it may end up being marketing.

      • DebraCaplick

        @ginidietrich@danielnewmanUV If we as a profession continue to use “marketing + [fill int the blank]” to describe what we do, then marketing is definitely going to “own” it. We have to frame the debate if we intend to keep PR and, by extension, social media, as a PR function. Not that marketing doesn’t have it’s place as a collaborator of PR and advertising, but using marketing terms puts advertising, public relations, etc., in a subordinate role by default, and that may not serve the best interests of the client. As my Civil War buff neighbor would say, “there’s a reason it’s known as the Battle of Bull Run, not Manassas.” “History is written by the victors.” (Winston Churchill).

      • @ginidietrich@danielnewmanUV Why is it necessary for “someone” to “own” anything? To me, the beauty of the web is nobody owns it.

        • ginidietrich

          @Ari Herzog@danielnewmanUV Within the organization, Ari. We all need job responsibilities. It can’t be the wild, wild west inside an organization with everyone furthering their own agendas online.

        • @Ari Herzog@ginidietrich@danielnewmanUV

          You can’t fool me. Al Gore owns the Internet. Then Justin Bieber.

        • @ginidietrich Agreed on not having a wild west but as long as there is a policy on what to do and when and how, it shouldn’t matter which department is involved. The policy should come out of the executive office so there’s no question it’s for everyone. That’s my point.

        • DebraCaplick

          @Ari Herzog@ginidietrich It shouldn’t, but it does – that’s just basic human nature.

      • @ginidietrich@danielnewmanUV But I thought you were the one Gini who said “PR and Marketing are the same thing!” At least I accredited to you and loved you for it.

  • kshe1

    Great points. I’d add one skill to that list – visual thinking. It’s becoming an increasingly critical skill as we migrate toward creating more eye-popping content to tell stories… videos, infographics, pictures, etc. I know it’s something I need to work on!

    • ginidietrich

      @kshe1 I agree. 84% of us are visual learners so it’s important we don’t forget that.

  • karirippetoe

    These all seemed like common sense to me, but mainly because I’m a marketer approaching PR from that perspective. The lines are blurring more and more, and you’re absolutely right about integration. Not just integrating search with social and social with email, etc., but integrating roles and processes.

    You’re also right about measuring results. I’ve seen traditional PR firms fired because they couldn’t demonstrate any solid results of their efforts – meaning those tied to business goals. Again, as a marketer, common sense to me because we’re always expected to do this. How is it that PR got away with it for so long?

    • ginidietrich

      @karirippetoe PR has always been intangible – brand awareness, credibility, thought leadership. You know when you have it and you know when you don’t, but you can’t really measure it. But, with the web, we can be held accountable for results now. The problem is most PR pros are still stuck in the old age and don’t know HOW to measure. So they’re struggling with it while they figure it out.

      • karirippetoe

        @ginidietrich I agree, and not only can they be held accountable, they ARE being held accountable.

        There’s also this traditional vs. non-traditional (new) media debate. We recently worked on a campaign with a “traditional” PR firm who brought us on to identify new media publishers (i.e. bloggers, other social media “influencers”). They had a rudimentary understanding of what “new media” encompassed, but didn’t know what to look for or how to approach them. I think, though, that there will always be a need for both traditional and non-traditional; but PR needs to understand that there are different ways to work with each.

        • ginidietrich

          @karirippetoe That makes me sad.

  • Great points! SEM doesn’t usually fall under PR pros like you said, but in these times, everyone is working harder and doing more with less so people have to wear multiple hats to be successful. And I also agree with @kshe1 about visual thinking. We consume so much content and some people (ahem, me) have short attention spans so you need something to make your content stand out from the rest.

    • ginidietrich

      @Cision And most of us are visual learners so we have to play where they learn.

  • Elaine_Fogel

    Gini, I love #5, but is it too Utopian?

    • ginidietrich

      @Elaine_Fogel I hope not! In 2000-2001 it was beginning to happen when the dot com bubble burst and we had the 9/11 tragedy. So everyone retreated to their corners to protect their fiefdoms. In the past three years, we’ve been working with clients to break down the silos. And a lot of the research I’m seeing from CMOs is they’re trying to do the same. I think it’s going to be imperative, if PR pros want to maintain their jobs.

  • a_greenwood

    Bless you for saying this: “Gone are the days of media impressions and advertising equivalencies.”

    • ginidietrich

      @a_greenwood Right?!?

      • a_greenwood

        @ginidietrich Yes! So tired of being asked for these–useless! Thanks for a great post and a fantastic year of quality blogging, Gini.

        • ginidietrich

          @a_greenwood I find we have to educate our clients on WHY they’re not necessary and how they don’t make a difference. It’s a process, that’s for sure.

          And…thank you!

        • a_greenwood

          @ginidietrich I have to a do a better job educating then–it seems to fall on deaf ears. And you are welcome!

  • I like how the article highlighted ‘integration’ simply because that is what is lacking in organizations today. Customer service does their thing and the marketing team does another. The sales team, HR and all the other departments act individually. It is about time they work together with a common ‘social’ strategy to reach out to their target audience collectively. The challenge is – “how”.

    • ginidietrich

      @janwong Funny you should ask as there is a book coming out in May that describes how. 🙂

      • @ginidietrich Oh, there is? Maybe I missed that out somewhere. Would love to read that book 🙂

        • ginidietrich

          @janwong Yes! As luck would have it, it has my name on it so it’ll be easy to find.

    • @janwong In 1999 I worked as a webmaster for a manufacturing firm. I routinely met with department managers who wanted to put their own content on the website. Their ideas were circles and I told them the website could only allow for squares, so we met halfway and I created online what they wanted to show.

      Nothing was social back then, unless a web visitor clicked an email link. But I helped enable departments to talk to each other for the benefit of the web visitor, because on the corporate website, all departments were equals.

      • @Ari Herzog I would think back then that was considered as being social since it involved both internal and external brand communications. You’re right. The secret sauce for integration may still remain to enable departments communicate effectively and collaboratively to their audiences.

  • Great list Gini but I think I’d definitely add “a sense of humor” too. To work in this profession you need it :=)

    • ginidietrich

      @jonbuscall Ha! Such a good point.

  • FollowtheLawyer

    I think these six embody a 7th implicit need: curiosity. As you touch on in #2, understanding adjacencies, interconnections and extensions to traditional “PR” makes one a far more valuable to clients, particularly those that place a premium on integrated marketing and communications. The ability to generate novel insights and draw unexpected connections can elevate and distinguish your practice and your brand.

    • ginidietrich

      @FollowtheLawyer Love that! And I agree…too many times we say, “Oh I don’t have time” and we never grow our minds. Curiosity creates a need to grow our minds.

  • eCelebrating

    @ginidietrich wish PR pros would quit pitching me Colin Cowie. LOL

    • ginidietrich

      @eCelebrating I wish PR pros would learn how to pitch. Jeez.

      • eCelebrating

        @ginidietrich exactly! LOL

  • ToddBartlett


    Excellent post. Of the six skills integration seems to be the most important one. As technology and social media continues to evolve it is becoming increasingly more important that companies integrate their departments and communication tactics. In their book IMC-The Next Generation authors Don and Heidi Schultz do a great job discussing this topic in greater detail. However, it has been almost ten years since the publication of their book and we are just now starting to see companies shift from a traditional compartmentalized run organization to a more integrated run organization. I look forward to reading your book in May so I can further my knowledge on this subject.

    • ginidietrich

      @ToddBartlett I’m impressed you read that. I’ve tried three different times to get through it to no avail.

      • ToddBartlett

        @ginidietrich I just read a chapter a day. It reads read like a dry textbook.

        • ginidietrich

          @ToddBartlett Uh…yeah. I suppose I could try that method.

        • @ginidietrich@ToddBartlett Or you could do what I did with Joyce’s Ulysses and decide that if it’s THAT difficult to get through I can live without it.

  • yourgreatlifetv

    @ginidietrich And that’s why you are the PR queen 😉

    • ginidietrich

      @yourgreatlifetv Who me?!?

      • yourgreatlifetv

        @ginidietrich You know it! Te quiero Gini, we need to skype early next year and do our video. 😉

        • ginidietrich

          @yourgreatlifetv Yes, we do!

  • I’d add email marketing and integration of social and content into email. Great post G!

    • ginidietrich

      @JayBaer Yes! Everyone forgets about email, but it’s still extremely effective. Perhaps that’s why…everyone forgets about it.

      • @ginidietrich@JayBaer It’s my very, very favorite form of marketing; to do it effectively you need great writing and a killer subject line. It’s like solving a puzzle and I love the challenge.

    • ToddBartlett

      @JayBaer Great point Jay. I think email is most effective when it is integrated with social and content marketing.

  • wordsdonewrite

    RT @ginidietrich Our jobs, as PR pros, are integrating w/other disciplines. Here are 6 skills we need to learn

  • Anyone who is just now beginning to look at integrating, is already way behind the times.

    • ginidietrich

      @smccollo I wish that were true. Unfortunately, I’d venture to guess 90% of businesses in the U.S. are not integrated. It’s painful and it hurts my heart.

  • Great post. I’m sticking it on my bulletin board so that I’ve mastered each one of these before 2012 ends 🙂 Admittedly I’m a little weak on #2… of course I know what it does, but I’m in need of an intensive course to understand it better. Thanks for the kick in the pants.

    • ginidietrich

      @AmyMccTobin #2 is super fun to understand because you see almost immediate results!

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  • James Martinez

    Great post! Question: You said “Gone are the days of media impressions and advertising equivalencies…” I put together a media relations results recap every month for the non-profit I work for. They love the impressions and ad equivelencies info, but what else can or should I give them or tell them as a bottom line result that they can understand? Thanks!

  • ginidietrich

    @bdorman264 Were your ears burning earlier?

    • bdorman264

      @ginidietrich My radar was up; hopefully one of you were defending me…:)

      • ginidietrich

        @bdorman264 I totally defended you.

        • bdorman264

          @ginidietrich Whew, thanks; I need all the help I can get…

        • ginidietrich

          @bdorman264 We know

  • ginidietrich

    @loyalistpr Woo hoo!

  • ginidietrich

    @adamtoporek Did you buy the domain?

    • adamtoporek

      @ginidietrich Yep, got it! Excited that part is done. Starting work this evening on finding a designer.

      • DorineDunten959

        @adamtoporek Sick of your job? Been there! This is a way out.

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  • GalaxyKannanGtp

    Wow…… good tips about the skills what a PR should posses…….. Really a very good article….

    Thank……… You……..

    Bensie Dorien

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  • ginidietrich

    @juliestutzman Thanks!

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