What types of continuing education does a PR professional need, particularly in a tough economy?

Depending upon one's level of seniority, professional development could cover a broad spectrum of subjects.

Depending upon one's level of seniority, professional development could cover a broad spectrum of subjects. But one thing is certain: in a tough economy, where each and every employee must continue to prove his or her value to the company on an almost daily basis, one can never be knowledgeable enough. Many professionals neglect their own continuing education, even as they watch their peers gain the training needed to advance to the next level.

Smart professionals continue to refine their core foundation skills while also expanding their range of talents. Ongoing development of media relations, writing, and project management skills are a must for every PR pro, regardless of seniority. In addition, it is essential to build expertise in social media, sales presentations, RFP and proposal writing, client management, crisis communications, and strategic writing such as Op-Eds and speeches. Strength in basic fundamentals may help you land the job you want, but acquiring advanced skills will ensure that you keep the job and grow within the organization. In addition, as more and more PR agencies become increasingly specialized, developing deep knowledge of your clients' industries can make a great difference. For example, if you work for pharmaceutical companies developing cancer drugs, learning all you can about the oncology space will make you a better counselor to your client, and a more valuable member of your account team.

In a tight economy, proving your worth and demonstrating how you can add value beyond your employer's expectations are critical to one's survival. The extra effort required to expand your expertise could mean the difference between failure and success.

Steve Seeman is a VP at Makovsky + Company.

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