Gini Dietrich

Five Ways to Evolve and Learn New Communications Skills Now

By: Gini Dietrich | October 11, 2017 | 
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Learn New SkillsIt’s no surprise the role of the communicator has changed drastically since 2008.

(I really can’t believe it’s been that long.)

With the advent of social media and blogging and social advertising and more, we’ve quickly had to learn new skills and adapt to new trends.

This is why, in 2014, I introduced the PESO model in Spin Sucks—the integrated communications model we’ve used for our Arment Dietrich clients for years.

It helps communicators think beyond the news release and understand that to truly build a brand, it has to include more than earned media.

We’ve had the “What is PR?” debate more times than I care to count and yet, we continue have to have it.

Leaders at some of the largest, global agencies still refer to public relations as media relations.

And, if we can’t agree on what it is that we do, how do we expect our clients or the executives with whom we work to know what we do?

The Trends Prove Evolution

If you take a look at Google Trends for the past five years, you can see that content marketing (blue), media relations (red), and thought leadership (yellow) follow the same pattern.

They all fluctuate, with major drops in interest the last two weeks of the year (no surprise there—no one is working).

Now take a look at media relations (red) as compared to content marketing (blue).

The trend has declined in the past five years for media relations, while content marketing continues to increase.

When you add SEO (green) on top of it (unfair comparison, really), everything gets blown away.

Not to mention, in January of 2016, there was a large spike in interest and it hasn’t declined since then.

Five Ways to Learn New Skills

All of this to prove that our jobs have evolved and it’s up to us as individuals to learn new skills.

The communicator of today has myriad of skills, including content marketing, SEO, email marketing, social advertising, media relations, reputation management, social media, and measurement.

While it would be great if we could focus in on one area, that time has passed right by us.

If you do not evolve, learn new skills, and keep yourself up-to-date, you will not have the same career in five years.

Let’s take a look at five ways you can evolve with the industry—and stay ahead of the trends.

Learn Strategy

I have a friend who is an executive at a Global 500 company. She recently said to me:

You know what’s wrong with the PR industry? Most don’t know what a strategy is or how to develop one.

That’s a real challenge.

As an industry, we tend to focus on the tactics and start there versus starting with the end (and the organization’s goals) in mind.

As you begin a new campaign for next year, think about what success looks like in the end.

Picture what will have had to happen for you to reach your vision.

  • Will you have built a community? What does that look like?
  • Will you have everyone talking about your brand? What will that include?
  • How many people will you have in the nurturing pipeline?
  • What kinds of sales will you have created?

After you know what you want to accomplish, you can work backward to figure out how you’ll get there.

The what is the strategy and, until you know that, you won’t be successful in any of these other things.

Devote to Professional Development

I know this is easier said than done because, well, time.

But the only way you can evolve and learn new skills is to go back to school, so to speak.

It used to be, if you wanted to take on anything new, you had to go get a graduate degree at a university.

That is no longer the case.

Today you can take LinkedIn Learning or Coursera online courses.

Many marketing organizations have online courses, such as Content Marketing Institute, MarketingProfs, and Spin Sucks.

Attend conferences, take zillions of notes, and then apply (see the next tip).

Some of my favorites include Content Jam, Content Marketing World, and MarketingProfs B2B Forum.

And, of course, read.

Nothing is better than reading books and blogs to get ideas and provide fodder for creativity.

Experiment, Take Risk, and Tweak

How many of you have pages and pages of notes from events you’ve attended, books you’ve read, and courses you’ve taken?

It’s OK…I do, too.

But what good does that do you?

I just finished reading The Conversion Code and I have three pages of notes of things I want to implement immediately.

To be able to experiment and test some of what I’ve learned (and get through a growing task list), I’m taking a sabbatical week.

I’m treating it as though I’m on vacation, which means my team has stepped in to fill in while I’m “out.”

Now, I own the joint so I can do this, but you can do something similar.

If you learn something you want to implement right now, block out half a day later this week to do it.

The point is, strike while the iron is hot.

Don’t let it sit in your browser in one of a zillion tabs, or in Pocket where you might get to it eventually.

Do it now.

Get Really Good at SEO

I often call what we do “on-page SEO.”

This means, is the content that you read, see, and hear that is optimized.

You can certainly leave the back-end/development SEO to the pros, but communicators have to learn how on-page SEO works.

This starts with keyword research, content planning, publication, distribution, influencer relations, social media, and more.

While some of you may be excellent content producers and people flock to your content, no matter how well (or not) it’s optimized, the rest of us need some help.

Learn how to optimize your content so both Google and humans can find it.

Don’t Be Afraid to Outsource

We have never before been in a situation where it is so easy to outsource.

If I’d had Virtual Staff Finder and Upwork when I started my business, I guarantee I would not have had the bank calling my line of credit when the economy crashed.

It’s extraordinarily efficient to hire someone to do project work or become a full-time <insert need> freelancer with services like these.

But…people are scared. I hear it every day:

I’m just not comfortable hiring someone outside of this country.

I am living, breathing proof that that is a silly fear.

We have employees in Europe, Canada (which I guess doesn’t really count as outside of this country), and the Philippines.

And there is zero difference in their work compared to those in the U.S.

The only difference is in how you pay them, which isn’t scary enough to not do it.

If you test an idea that you’ve just learned and need some extra help to get it done, use one of those services.

I guarantee you’ll be hooked.

Create Your Future

We’re in an exciting—albeit scary—time and, for those of you who fear change, this is going to be hard.

But you can take the bull by the horns now, while you’re in control, or you can wait until the industry evolves so much, it pushes you out.

I know that fear is undone by crisis, but why put yourself through that?

Create the opportunity for you now to learn new skills, adapt to these changes, and evolve.

If you do, I promise you’ll not only be happier at work (and more marketable), you won’t find yourself in a crisis in three to five years.

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!

  • Debbie Johnson

    I would love to take the Spin Sucks online courses when they are offered again.

  • Dawn Buford

    Adapting, growing, learning – these apply to any career or job, not just PR and Marketing. If you’re not constantly enriching yourself in your career, you will not advance, and may even risk losing your job during times of crisis. And like the pie chart in this post, my job has been so much more than what my title indicates. Keep on learning people!

  • Marc

    Take off, eh!
    We Canadians don’t want to be part of your country. Although we love you Americans, we prefer to stay up here and enjoy our life in igloos with our rockstar prime minister.
    in fact, we just celebrated our Canadian Thanksgiving on Monday, giving thanks for not being Americans.
    Everything else about your blog post is awesome and keep sending money to us.

    • Well, no reason to be rude. We did just write a blog post celebrating YOUR Thanksgiving. We’re jealous of your rock star prime minister. No reason to rub it in.

      • Marc

        I’m sorry, I wasn’t trying to be rude, just funny. #fail
        Thanks for the Canadian love.

        • I was just teasing back. I wouldn’t want us if I were you, either. Not at all!

  • Edward M. Bury

    Sound advice here all modern communicators should follow, especially if they intend to remain relevant and vital in public relations today. Please don’t interpret this comment as self-serving: Pursuing and earning the Accredited in Public Relations credential does elevate one to become a strategist and instills a commitment to learning. Now, the disclosure: I hold the APR and am 2017 Accreditation chair for PRSA Chicago.

    • You and I will always disagree about this, but I still want to have drinks with you soon. 🙂

      • Edward M. Bury

        How about Oct. 24?

        • I’ll be in Tulsa speaking at the PRSA event there.

          • Edward M. Bury

            Give me a date and I’ll be there; have class on Mondays. I hear they serve BBQ in Tulsa.

  • Elise Perkins

    Sidebar: my little one starts daycare tomorrow and I am all about learning ALL THE THINGS again.

    • Two things: 1) Daycare is harder on you than on him; and 2) Be prepared to have your immune system tested.

      Once you get past those two things, daycare is awesome. He’ll learn so much more than you could possibly teach him at home, including social skills and how to be a friend to others.

      • Elise Perkins

        I’m sure. I cried hard this morning…he just took off to play with a truck and didn’t look back 😉

        • It gets better. I promise! And he’ll be SO EXCITED to see you tonight.

  • That Google Trends data is amazing and really just speaks for itself!

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