If you’re interested in how public relations practitioners have to change to deal with new online realities, I’d urge you to listen to today’s podcast from For Immediate Release: The Hobson & Holtz Report. (You can download the 35-megabyte MP3 directly, or subscribe to their podcast feed.)
It’s a special episode devoted entirely to the skills PR professionals need in a Web-enabled world, where public relations look a lot less like broadcasting and a lot more like conversations. Here’s the text version of my contribution to the show:
Here are four key skills I expect public relations practitioners are going to need in the world of PR Two point Zero.
First, you need to be able to identify and talk to niche audiences. This is the era of the long tail, with lots of diverse, distinct communities clustered around particular interests. Build channels to engage those interests, and you can lend real power to your strategy.
Second, you need to be able to integrate messages across audiences… because while channels are proliferating, silos are falling apart, and information is being shared. One audience can see what you’re saying to another audience — notice any inconsistencies with what you’ve told them — and spread the word on their own blogs.
Third, a very specific skill: you need to write conversationally. There’s a particular tone and rhythm to online writing, especially in blogs, where you’re often talking one-two-one and one-to-many at the same time. The voice you use writing news releases or annual reports won’t necessarily serve you well in the comments section of a blog… especially if it isn’t your blog.
Finally, and most importantly, you need to be able to teach. Because increasingly, it won’t be a PR professional who actually carries out an organization’s communication. It’s going to be that organization’s staff, membership, and even clients and stakeholders. Our job is giving them the support and the tools they need — whether it’s technical training or teaching communications skills.
So four key skills for the future: communicating with niches, integrating across audiences, writing conversationally, and teaching.
Honestly, I think this last one is the hardest. It’s easy to tell clients to give up control to gain control — not so easy to do it ourselves. But that’s how we get the power of authentic voices. And that’s what all four of these skills are about.