Adapt to stay ahead of the game

Employers don't just want digital expertise, they need people who can show creativity and adaptability across all media, says VMA Group CEO Julia Meighan.

Julia Meighan: "Clients are crying out for people who show they are willing and able to adapt."
Julia Meighan: "Clients are crying out for people who show they are willing and able to adapt."

Digital has become a key word in the PR industry as social media continue to play an integral part in comms strategies. As such, over recent years professionals in the sector have had to adapt to this changing digital landscape and incorporate these media into their day-to-day activities.

PR professionals looking to move position – and, indeed, those seeking their first role – may be forgiven, then, for thinking that an in-depth knowledge of social networking sites will make them an attractive prospect for employers. After all, aren’t digital skills what everyone wants these days?

The answer is yes... and no. While expertise in digital media is valuable, more often than not PR recruiters take it as a given, assuming that emerging talent will have the technical capabilities required for the job. So, if this technical expertise is expected of any PR candidate, what are the other skill sets that will help a candidate stand out from the crowd as thePR industry evolves?

Just as writing a press release with no news angle is a waste of time, so is filling up social media with content that doesn’t engage the user. Simply being able to use digital channels is no longer of interest to an organisation. Instead, what employers are really looking for in prospective employees is evidence of their ability to use digital platforms creatively, in ways that truly maximise their potential. In essence, they want to see that a candidate is able to take their comms expertise and use this across multiple media – online, offline, broadcast, etc.

This leads on to what we would say is the crux around skills requirements from individuals, and indeed the industry in general: the ability to adapt in a changing landscape. The sector, and the working environment in general, has remained in a state of flux over recent years as the economic climate, technological developments and the increasing global business opportunities impacted organisations. And, as the PR business constantly evolves to meet the developing comms need of today’s modern world, clients are crying out for people who can demonstrate that they are willing and able to adapt to new challenges and situations.

This isn’t just as a result of new technologies. The ability to manage evolving media, unfamiliar audiences – for example, in global campaigns – or even changes within the organisation will also be required. Just as in nature, those who can adapt will stay ahead of the game. Lucy Cairncross, head of VMA Direct, the service from VMA Group that works solely with entry to mid-level talent, explains: "With digital playing an important role in the comms industry we had anticipated the integration of these responsibilities into general comms roles.

"Interestingly, though, we are still seeing standalone digital roles continue to rise. And, as the comms landscape evolves, PRs who can demonstrate their ability to adapt and thrive, as well as take an original and innovative approach to digital channels, will be highly sought after. They need to be flexible problem solvers who can create content that chimes with the user and makes their subject stand out from the crowd."

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