5 tips on building a future-proof PR team

The PR pros of tomorrow will require skills that traditional PR staff sometimes lack, writes Cleveland Clinic's Eileen Sheil.

The practice of public relations is, and has been, rapidly changing. How to best prepare for the future is a question facing communication leaders everywhere. We know how the media has changed over the last decade and that social media has truly changed our world; the rapid flow of information makes our jobs essentially a 24/7 operation. So, how do we evolve the talent we hire and the teams we build so we’re ready for the next decade of PR?

The skills that were sufficient 10 years ago are very different from what we’ll need 10 years from now. Yes, we still need impeccable judgment, great writing talent, and strong listening skills. We need to build great relationships with internal and external stakeholders as well as with the media. We must have good intuition and an ability to communicate with influence, among many other attributes. Today, I believe talented PR pros also require new skills that traditional PR staff sometimes lack.

Five things come to mind for me when it comes to essential skills needed.

Approaching PR strategically is crucial
There is a growing need to understand and have a strong business acumen and strategy of how PR supports organizations’ priorities. Results matter and we need to demonstrate that better.

Creativity is underrated
Sometimes we get too busy and don’t spend enough time coming up with new, creative ideas that support research, insights, and the strategy behind it. I have come to value those who can think outside of the box and can apply more creative and effective solutions to public relations initiatives.

Think visually
In the age of social media, translating our stories into visual communication is important. Audiences want simple, but powerful messages and stories that stick with them. Even executives appreciate a one-page summary with visual elements over a lengthy document or report.

Silos must be broken
We all need to be team players, but I want to emphasize the need for individuals to be good at integrated collaboration across marcomms functions that foster greater impact and return on PR and marketing investments. Silos and internal competition are no longer acceptable and are counterproductive. The impact and enjoyment of working together creates greater outcomes, generates better creativity and provides stronger returns.

Measurement matters
My personal passion is that we become more measurement-mindful. As a profession, we need to move away from "ad values" and focus on measuring what matters to the bottom line. We know PR works, but we continue to struggle with how to prove and measure it effectively.

So, sharpen your skills, learn something new, and hire and retain the best talent.

Eileen Sheil is executive director of corporate communications at Cleveland Clinic, one of the country's top nonprofit academic medical centers. Her column will focus on the myriad challenges of healthcare PR and topics related to the management of the comms function. Sheil can be reached at sheile@ccf.org.

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