From the editor-in-chief: Do you have the skills to be part of PR's future?

Whether we call it PR or not, professional communicators will be expected to run effective campaigns using all types of media in any specialism in the future, writes editor-in-chief Danny Rogers.

If you’re wondering where your career will be going over the next decade or so, or if you’re intellectually piqued by the future of marketing and comms, PRWeek in October provides some important answers. We quizzed a lot of senior executives, but particularly illuminating were the views of our panel of young, super-talented millennials who bring a fresh perspective to an ongoing debate (see 30 Under 30).

Although there are lots of fascinating views and ideas on offer throughout PRWeek’s Future of PR report, there are some vital trends that few can dispute. For example, almost every successful executive – at whatever level, and whether client-side or consultant – sees the classic career in comms as changing in essence and yet becoming more clearly defined. It seems that the distinction between corporate reputation management and consumer PR is becoming sharper as a consequence.

This is because technology and a changing media culture is destroying the obsession with comms channels and bringing focus to the specialist skills of the executives using them. The smartest respondents point out that professional communicators will simply be expected to understand the right mix of paid, earned and owned media and thus be able to run effective campaigns accordingly. This a central tenet of my new book Campaigns that Shook the World.

Of course, this requires upskilling in the PR industry itself, which is probably its biggest single challenge. Unless you can use video and data-led audience planning in a creative way, eventually you will no longer be invited to any of the right meetings. Yes, the essential skill of PR – effective storytelling via influential relationships – remains the same, but the tools and demands are transforming.

Somewhat counter-intuitively, this upskilling and reorganisation of the comms business will also lead to more specialism as PR executives quite rightly think harder about their USPs. As McCann Worldgroup boss Harris Diamond pointed out recently, PR’s biggest advantage is its grasp of the context of an organisation’s comms. Hence, successful executives of the future will be experts in managing reputations and running campaigns in specific sectors, whether that is government, manufacturing, fashion or consumer technology.

Will it still be called ‘PR’? Most respondents don’t think so. In a sense, it doesn’t matter as long as this community of professional communicators continues to adapt, redefine and improve.

Danny Rogers, editor-in-chief

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