Now that corporations are embracing content creation and social media, PR pros are sometimes surprised to find their job descriptions look quite similar to that of journalists (albeit with obvious caveats regarding objectivity and impartiality).
In the meetings I've had with PR executives, talk often falls to the talent concern. And what we find is that we both want the same traits in prospective employees. The reality is that young PR pros can no longer just cultivate media lists and offer airtight relations with influential reporters as their only value, just as print journalists can no longer just write stories. Both industries are constantly redefining themselves, and thus, so must the next generation of employees.
This week, we wrote about how some agencies expressed a preference for candidates that have an MBA. While a business degree (undergrad or graduate) certainly boosts one's chances, it can be difficult to fit into one's life, especially for those already on a specific career path. But I would encourage all PR pros to educate themselves about business - in a way that transcends merely grasping the industry of clients. PR pros don't necessarily need to take out a loan and go back to school, they can take a night class; read every inch of The Wall Street Journal (while its current incarnation lasts), Financial Times, balance sheets, etc.; or buy an investment banker a drink.
Equally important to business acumen is a thirst for innovation. Innovation does not just mean embracing the latest digital plaything, but actually understanding how these new technologies are affecting the industry and, for agencies, their clients. It's a good idea to sign up for a FriendFeed account, but it's not worth much if you can't identify a business application. While "digital" sometimes mistakenly gets cast as a young PR pro's pursuit, the reality is that anyone in the industry can take the lead on technological implementation.
Finally, all PR pros should strive to be cultural anthropologists. It's not enough to look at charts and Census statistics and tailor outreach to the lay of the land today. The pace of change today likely causes great concern for the C-suite, and executives will place a great deal of trust in whoever best anticipates how tomorrow will look. Shifts in population, demographics, psychographics, tastes, interests, and culture make any corporate outreach akin to communications at a moving target.
It's a great time to be in PR, but only if you're someone who wants to work hard, experiment with new communications tools, and relishes the opportunity to directly prove the industry's worth to an attentive C-suite. And note: learning how communications channels are changing is not just a great way to get ahead, it's also a matter of survival. In an industry where everyone can succeed, no one will be able to hide from change.