Ellwood Atfield director Gavin Ellwood said: "We’re contacted all the time by journalists who want to get into PR. There was a time when that could happen overnight. Increasingly that step is not becoming a step – it’s becoming a chasm to cross."
Speaking at a panel session entitled The Changing Requirements in Skills for 2016, Ellwood explained that integration of marcoms disciplines was causing PR professionals to develop a range of skills.
"If you want to get to the top you need to be able to oversee all of the different elements of PR and communications.
"Going and virtually gone are the days where we would see the group comms director being someone who joined a few years ago because he was a journalist. It’s just not going to happen."
Also speaking on the panel, Kirsty Leighton, managing director of PR agency Hudson Sandler, said the demands of modern PR meant people with different backgrounds were increasingly sought.
She said PR employers "aren’t looking necessarily for those with PR degrees, comms degrees, journalism degrees. They are looking for the psychologists, the geographers. They are looking for the people who understand people".
Elsewhere at the London seminar – entitled '2016: The Year Of...' and chaired by PRWeek deputy editor John Harrington – Hanover director Gavin Megaw stressed the importance of "upgrading the role of PR" among organisations.
"We should be around the table, we should be pushing the process, we should be at the heart of every decision. If that’s the case we’ll be able to do things quickly, we’ll be able to do things better.
"I’m fed up of PRs saying, 'that’s above my pay grade'. Our pay grade will increase if we start taking control of these things, and doing them properly."
Meanwhile, Instinctif partner Tali Kramer urged comms professionals to have the courage to stand up to their clients if they believe it is necessary.
"Challenge the clients, saying ‘why do you do this’? We shouldn’t be scared to challenge the clients. Just creating content for content’s sake doesn’t work."