Mike Connell

The Big Question: What Are Your Most Valuable PR and Marketing Skills?

By: Mike Connell | February 9, 2018 | 

pr and marketing skillsBack in April 2017, we asked readers about their thoughts on “the most important PR skills to master to be successful in the next three years, and why?

Those answers ranged from “being good in a crisis,” to writing.

And those are good answers. Those can be the “right” answers.

Maybe I’m wrong, but being good in a crisis in your formative years probably didn’t lead throngs of people to the PR industry.

Being a good writer doesn’t necessarily push people into marketing.

Sure, being a good writer may be what sets me apart.

But is it my most valued skill for being in this industry? Is it what led me to where I am?

Maybe, but there’s more to it than that.

I’m good with people. I have a strategic mind and I am eager and able to keep learning.

There isn’t one answer, clearly, so let’s find out what the rest of you think.

What are your most valuable PR and marketing skills?

Confession Time

Before we get started, I have a quick confession to make.

Ready? Each week, as I complete the article, we submit the next Big Question to the Spin Sucks Slack Group, our socials and, finally, on HARO.

Early this week, as I started pulling responses together, I was hit with a horrifying realization. I never submitted this week’s Big Q to HARO (where we get most of our responses).

I panicked.

Luckily, our Slack community was, as ever, very vocal around this week’s theme. But still, I fretted.

The HARO responses bring new people into the Spin Sucks/Big Question fold.

They bring a range of experience and opinion that makes this column easy to write week-after-week.

Kicking myself, I submitted the query into HARO late Tuesday morning anyway, marking it as urgent and connecting with the super-responsive HARO team to make sure it would go out in short order.

Phew. The query went out.

It was just prior to noon EST on Wednesday, February 6, 2018. But it went out.

Even if I only received a handful of responses, it would be enough.

So, as I sat down to write, I checked the query to see how many responses we had received in such a short time (remember, normally I submit on Wednesday or Thursday the week prior).

Imagine my surprise when I found more than 80 responses to this week’s question.

The moral of the story?

Mike is forgetful (and, shockingly, fallible), HARO is great, and we are part of an amazing community of communications professionals.

So, with the sheer volume of answers in mind, let’s get down to it.

The PR and Marketing Skills Around Storytelling

Far and away the most popular answer this week was the ability to tell a good story.

From Amanda Berlin:

I’m a former agency publicity writer and strategist (now have my own business doing the same), and my most valuable skill is telling a good story. Being able to get to the essential details that are going to MATTER to the audience and inspire them to act is the most valuable thing a PR person can bring to the table, IMHO.

Kate Paine started in journalism, and eventually found herself in PR:

I first went into journalism because I was a writer, and I like to write stories. Not fiction stories, but real stories about what was happening with people.

I liked to capture the essence of a person’s character—their human side—so a story would resonate with the reader.

That skill led to my career in PR. While I was never in crisis PR (nor did I want to be), I did work in PR for either mission-driven companies or nonprofits. That way, I was using my storytelling skills to make a difference, to help a mission or cause to move forward in the most transparent way possible. Making the story relatable to the reader.

TIP: If you’re trying to sell your service in a B2B setting, find a story or hook about yourself that is relevant to your professional story and weave them together.

This can be done effectively in the About Me/Us page of a website, but most especially in one’s LinkedIn Summary. Tell a nugget of your story, relate it to your target audience’s pain point, and finalize it with how your expertise can resolve their pain paint.

Potential clients want to buy based on the outcomes you can provide for them.

Kirk Hazlett is on the same page:

I’m a storyteller, pure and simple.

Instead of trudging through the minutiae, I tell a relatable “story” that helps the recipient understand the situation, why it’s important, and how it relates to him or her.

An apparently “natural-born” attribute for me is the ability to write clearly and concisely… no BS… period.

Just ask my college English Lit professors!

The Story You Believe

While this submission could fit in the “Storytelling” section, the truth is it stood out. Not just because of how stories affected Tami Belt’s life, but also in how she applied that love and enthusiasm to her career:

Stories saved my life.

From changing the ending of ghost stories to avoid a deadly demise in elementary school to writing poetry for therapy since the age of 12, I learned the profound impact stories can have on people.

Everyone wants to be seen, heard and understood.

I love helping companies and nonprofits excavate, craft and share their stories. Everyone has a story someone in the world needs to hear… for inspiration, insight or to know they’re not alone.

Sometimes, the life you change or save, can be your own.

Finally, I love showing individuals how they can change their story. The most important story is the one you believe.

The PR and Marketing Skills that Allow You to Speak Your Mind

Genesis Mayorga always has something to say, and this is what she said about this:

Personally, for me, I may not always have the right thing to say, but I always have SOMETHING to say. Whether or not it’s premeditated is a different story, but that’s what has made me stand out through the years.

I speak my mind if I agree with something and I speak my mind if I don’t.

From my experience, people need to be reminded that their way isn’t always the best way and other opinions are crucial to having a successful relationship.

All that being said, my biggest tip is to speak your mind. It can be intimidating at first, but people respect honesty and your point of view  can change and improve the way things are done.

The PR and Marketing Skills that Require Listening

What’s better than speaking your mind? For Sara Hawthorn, it’s listening!

Increasingly, I’m leaning towards listening when I think about my skills.

PR and marketing are noisy and the ability to listen and translate what you’ve heard into meaningful and effective PR is underestimated.

Listening helps you anticipate and plan, it helps you position clients (and yourself) exactly where they need to be for maximum impact.

The PR and Marketing Skills that Are Tech Savvy

Charu Babbar notes that PR and marketing have changed a lot thanks to technology and our ability to track our efforts:

I have seen Marketing evolve from a support to strategic function in past few years. If I have to pick, the following two will be the most important skills for a Marketer to be successful:

Technology expertise: a Marketer who understands how to leverage technology and automation for Marketing activities, is what every organization wants today.

These skills are useful in evaluating tools, creating workflows, identifying bottlenecks and tracking results.

Given the digital scenario and plethora of tools available, someone who can give a method to the madness is highly appreciated.

Analytics: There is nothing more valuable than a marketer who can map results to business objectives.

Given the technological infrastructure, there is plenty of data available. The skill to extract relevant insights is indispensable.

Especially now because marketing can clearly quantify their contribution to pipeline and revenue.

The Ability to Budget Are Necessary PR and Marketing Skills

Tara Geissinger comes at it from a different perspective. It’s not always the solution you need, it’s the one you can afford, so she identifies her most valuable PR and marketing skill as an ability to work with budgets.

Maximizing budget. I work with a lot of clients that have small to medium sized budgets.

They’re either bootstrapping startups or family-owned businesses, etc.

I like to reverse-engineer strategies based on what they can afford.

It’s like a puzzle. Based on what I have to play with each month, what is the MOST impactful thing we can do? And then, what’s next? I always leave a little wiggle room for unexpected opportunities or ‘wildcards’ so we’re never locked in.

Going the Extra Mile

From Paula Kiger:

I think mine is going the extra mile when making connections—trying to remember the little things that can help a potential connection know I value them beyond whatever business it is we have between us.

It’s Who You Know

Jeannie Walters nailed it:

My best skill is knowing Gini Dietrich.

Wait for it…

Steve Silberberg’s secret to PR and marketing success?


Well played, Steve. Well played.

There Can’t Be Only One

Many respondents admitted that they had to think about and spend more time with this Big Question.

Pulling out the traditional “good at writing” or “I’m a good communicator” card was too easy.

They had to dig to identify what their differentiator is. Which was the point!

Whether it’s who you know, your ability to craft a well-turned phrase, being able to speak your mind, or sitting back and listening, it’s important to know yourself.

To know what drives you, what makes you tick, and what you bring to the communicator’s table.

Once you’ve identified that, I would argue the most important PR and marketing skill is an ability to ensure you keep learning and honing that differentiator.

That’s why we created The Communicator’s Playbook and The PR Dream Team.

They provide you with the tools to help you implement a process, integrate a plan, measure the results, lather, rinse, repeat.

They complement your kick-a*s PR and marketing skills.

Up Next: The Billable Hour

There are reasons some industries bill by the hour.

But for both clients and providers alike, it has become overwhelmingly clear that the billable hour in PR, marketing, and content creation, is not representative of the value those disciplines can deliver.

Clients don’t want to pay a crazy hourly rate for the most senior person (not to mention paying in 15-minute increments), nor do they want their project to be given to the most junior person so that they can save money.

On the flip side, PR and marketing efforts on the provider’s side aren’t always valued by how much time is spent.

And some jobs take longer to do than others, so attributing a rate and a measure of time to them doesn’t always make sense (i.e. it might take me two hours to write an amazing piece of content. It might take Gini an hour).

Add to that, the results. Billing by the hour assumes that time + skill and experience + effort = value.

But that’s not always the case.

If someone builds a website enabling a client to make millions of dollars, what’s that worth?

If you develop a content strategy that catapults a client’s brand into popularity and reduces conversion times by 50%, what price tag do you put on that?

Sure, tracking time is important.

Knowing where and how you can scale is important.

You need a baseline for your business offering, but ultimately, is it the best way to calculate value?

The next Big Q asks:

The billable hour: yes or no?

You can answer here, in our free Slack community, or on the socials (use #SpinSucksQuestion so we can find you).

About Mike Connell

Mike Connell is the director of client services at Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. He is also a contributor to the award-winning PR blog, Spin Sucks, the leading source for modern PR training, trends, and insights. Find more of Mike's musings on his blog, Communative . Join the Spin Sucks   community!