What if you could get people talking about you?
Public relations can be a great way to generate buzz about your business. PR is a powerful way to grow the profile of your business because it lets you tap into huge audiences. And have impartial third parties sing your praises. All at little-to-no cost.
If you do it well.
For all of the benefits of public relations, it isn’t easy. Generating media coverage of your business is going to require strong PR skills.
Here are the 7 PR skills you need to learn to get buzz for your business:
- Strong writing skills that tell a story
- Social media skills
- Research skills
- Time management
- People skills
- Pitching and follow-up
- PR measurement
1. Strong writing skills that tell a story
If you want to do great publications, you need to have some writing chops.
Isn’t the idea of PR that other people do the writing? Sometimes. But strong writing skills are still an important part of your PR skills toolbox, for a few reasons.
First, journalists are often busy.
The easier you make someone’s job, the more likely they are to run with your story. As Ryan Holiday recommends in his book Trust Me, I’m Lying: Confessions of a Media Manipulator, handing journalists a mostly-complete story often has better results than a simple pitch.
Second, sometimes the point of public relations is to get contributed articles published in industry-leading publications. Pitching the publisher or editor or journalist may be a first step to publication, but you need to actually be able to deliver great writing once your work is accepted.
Third, and perhaps most importantly, you need to be able to find the story.
Great writing is technically sound, sure. It has a way of avoiding jargon and explaining even complicated concepts simply. To be a great PR writer, you probably need to have good fundamental command of language, along with knowledge of AP style.
But the heart of a great piece is the story. The story answers the question “why should people care about this?”
This is the hardest PR skill to develop, and takes some creativity. The ability to find a compelling is one of the most important PR skills.
2. Social media skills
The world has gone digital. Social media is a new playground for PR people, and knowledge of social media is an important asset in your toolbox of PR skills.
The list of popular social media platforms seems to change all the time. But staying on top of that list, at least the list for your industry, is helpful for PR.
Does your target audience hang out on Facebook, or LinkedIn? Are there niche social media site, like ResearchGate, that exist for your industry.
Editors and journalists sometimes find stories through social media, so it’s worth knowing where they are active.
Social media platforms can be a great way to get in touch with otherwise out-of-reach influencers—or to help promote your stories after they get published.
3. Research skills
To do great PR, you need to have great research skills. That’s true for two reasons.
First, you need to be able to do great research for content you contribute to publications. If you want your content to spread and promote thought leadership, it needs to be backed by strong stats and authoritative sources.
Second, you need to be able to research the best PR opportunities for your business. You likely have some sense of the important publications in your industry.
But you still need to find the right contacts to pitch. You need to read and understand their work. You need to find off-the-beaten path opportunities that are still valuable to pursue.
All of those things will require strong research skills and Google-fu.
4. Time management
Public relations usually means juggling a lot of little to-dos. So it’s important to stay organized.
When you do PR, you need to keep track of a lot of tasks. You need to follow up with all of your pitches, continue email conversations, make phone calls, research new opportunities, and actually get around to writing your contributed pieces.
Strong time management skills are a must to keep it all together.
5. People skills
In This is How You Pitch, author Ed Zitron argues that his success in public relations largely comes down to his ability to build long-term relationships with reporters.
In other words, Zitron is good at making friends.
People skills are an important PR skill because they make it easier to get noticed by editors and journalists.
Imagine you had two pitches in front of you: one from a stranger and one from your buddy that you grabbed a beer with last week. Which one would you choose?
Sometimes, all it takes to build relationships in PR is reaching out before you have a story. Take people to lunch. Make friends. When you eventually have a pitch, it will be easier to get accepted.
6. Pitching and follow-up
Here’s what most people think about when they hear PR. Pitching.
Pitching is a really important PR skill to have, because it’s the moment where you story lives or dies. A great pitch can get you published. A bad pitch winds up lost in someone’s inbox.
Great pitching actually builds on a lot of the other PR skills on this list. Research helps you figure out who to pitch. It’s easier to pitch someone you have a relationship with. A great pitch has, at its core, a great story.
Once you have the content and story of a pitch, you need to actually go through the process of pitching. Depending on the norms of your industry, that could mean an email. A phone call. Even, in some more progressive spaces, a tweet.
Nail down a process for pitching and follow-up. It’s one of the most important PR skills you can develop.
7. PR measurement
Measurement is the black sheep of public relations. Although few doubt that PR is a powerful channel, even fewer know how to measure the success of PR efforts.
There are a variety of different metrics that might apply, depending on the type of business you run and the type of PR you do.
You might be able to track visits to your websites using UTM parameters. The social spread of media pieces. In-depth brand awareness studies can help you measure brand perception (even if they are more expensive).
You can track backlinks to your website. Domain authority. Historically, PR pros have used “Advertising Value Equivalency,” although that metric appears to be dying out.
PR measurement isn’t easy. But if you can figure out the metrics that matter most for your business, you can adjust your future PR campaigns and make your public relations more effective.
Conclusion: PR skills to learn
Does this list of PR skills seem long? Don’t worry. In this digital age, you likely already have a lot of the PR skills you need—skills like Google research and social media are becoming easier to learn in everyday life.
More difficult PR skills like finding a story or crafting a great pitch take time to learn. But if you can learn them, you can tap into the low-cost reach and influence that great public relations creates.