OPINION: The Big Question - Is your skillset more important than your knowledge base? Hitherto respected government minister Richard Caborn committed a PR blunder last week, revealing a lack of sporting knowledge on the day he took over as sports minister

John Fraser, August.One Communications

'No. Neither is the vital factor. The number one attribute is passion.

Give me someone who really cares, someone who wants to learn and do

great things, and I'll work with them to improve their skillset and

knowledge every time. I'm sure that's what Caborn's civil servants are

doing now. This is true of clients. We're constantly coaching

spokespeople to demonstrate passion about their company as a priority.

In addition, at a senior level staff just can't know everything across

their often huge remits, but have a team to support them. Their job is

to lead and inspire this team.'

Steve Martin, Ketchum

'I don't think you can carry out any role fully without both of these -

they complement each other. It is vital for credibility to be able to

discuss issues with an understanding of key areas. A role such as sports

minister requires knowledge of the infrastructure, the people and the

business of sport. In PR you have to be flexible to client needs, but

first and foremost you should be a skilled PRO. You may have expert

knowledge, but if you aren't a good communicator, it wouldn't work. So

primarily your skill set is most important, yet you have to be able to

take on knowledge and get wrapped up in the work. Although you can

develop expert knowledge over time, as a PRO you should always be armed

with it.'

Richard Campbell, Capital Communications MS&L

'They are as important as each other. A skillset is essential to

delivering quality advice, but is only useful once those skills can be

applied to an industry or sector about which you have a deep and

thorough understanding. For example, it is only possible to provide

high-quality financial communications advice having first gained a

thorough understanding of the client's needs, the complexities of the

marketplace, the regulatory environment and the motivations of the

investor. Having said that, good financial communications is about much

more than what you know about the markets. Being able to draw on a broad

range of marketing skills, not only media relations, to target an

audience is as useful in financial PR as it is in consumer PR. So while

a thorough knowledge of what investors, analysts and the financial media

want is crucial, the real skill lies in delivering it.'

James O'Keefe, Good Relations

'To communicate persuasively on an issue requires a good knowledge of

it. But without the skills to do the job, no amount of knowledge will

help. A consultant's job is to combine these skills with their expert

knowledge, listening, understanding, formulating and communicating to

build a compelling case for a client's business. And for a government

minister? Definitely skillset. They must be generalists to apply their

skills each time they are reshuffled. If Richard Caborn had scored five

out of five would that make him a good minister? Thankfully, ministers

are not selected on the basis of a pub quiz, but instead by their track

record and ability, as well as by the ballot box.'

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