What Skills Do You Need for Public Relations? - A Guide

By Tiara Ogabang

Get schooled 

Training and studying to become a public relations professional is no easy task. There’s a lot to learn on so many different fronts, and an accredited public relations or communications program can definitely help you get closer to your goal. 

But individual study is also an option, though it might make it a bit more difficult to secure your very first public relations job or internship. 

The aim of this article is to address the question of, “what skills do you need for public relations?” No matter what stage of your PR career you’re currently in, understanding and applying these key skills is incredibly important for finding success in the industry. 

Each job will no doubt require specific expertise relevant to the clients and their campaigns, but you can rest assured that every job even tangentially related to the field of public relations will require these skills on some level. 

Let’s get started! 

Skill #1: effective communication 

While it’s certainly true that effective communication is an important skill not just for public relations work but just about any job you can think of (as well as life outside of your career), public relations is very much an industry that is built on communication. 

In fact, we could say that public relations services are most essentially about communication: communicating messages from a client to their target audience. 

But you will also need to be able to communicate well with many individuals during the course of your PR career. 

Like many office jobs, communicating effectively with your coworkers isn’t only about keeping the work environment positive; it’s also about making sure that the work itself gets done with a minimum of problems and interruptions. 

effective communication

When something gets in the way of speaking honestly with your coworkers and your manager, problems are bound to come up. 

Of course, communication is also crucial in the area of client communications. You’re probably familiar with the phrase ‘the customer is always right.’ Well, that applies strongly to PR clients as well. 

This doesn’t mean that you need to integrate every one of their outlandish suggestions for an upcoming campaign, but you should listen carefully to what they have to say in any situation. 

After all, clients are paying for your PR services, and listening is a critical component of effective communication. 

Whether you’re speaking with a client for the very first time or meeting with them yet again after working with them for years and years, you should always, always be respectful and be ready to offer solutions for any problems they might be facing.  

Skill #2: creative thinking 

Back in school, creative thinking was nothing more than a category that cropped up on standardized tests, but out in the professional world, creative thinking is what helps you come up with solutions on the fly. 

If you apply creative thinking to your work when necessary, you can also develop a reputation for originality and innovation, two traits that are important to any employer. 

The world of PR in particular is a great place to flex your creative thinking muscles, and this is thanks in large part to the many different forms that PR and PR campaigns can take today. 

As funny as it might sound, at one point it took a creative mind to say that maybe a company could market to its audience more effectively by establishing a brand-run social media account. 

Even the common television commercial, which we’re all very familiar with by now after decades of use, was once a new and exciting concept. 

creative thinking

With the modern-day ubiquity of internet connectivity and social media usage, you can bet that there is still plenty of room for creativity when it comes to contemporary PR. 

In the grand scheme of things, we haven’t even scratched the service of the marketing opportunities that the internet offers to PR firms and PR specialists. 

Even outside of online PR, the industry has always been one that rewards new ideas, as long as those new ideas deliver results. 

While we don’t suggest barrelling into a PR agency and spouting all your new ideas during your first week there, you will soon notice openings to share your thoughts and maybe even lead to the discovery of a brand new PR technique. 

Skill #3: professional initiative 

Let’s start our discussion of professional initiative by talking about what it looks like when a PR representative lacks this kind of initiative.

An employee without a great deal of initiative will probably only do what is required and nothing more than that. This employee will also be unwilling to work as part of a larger team and may even show a disregard for the company’s hierarchy and leadership structure. 

Your goal should always be to avoid these tendencies when working in PR. While some jobs may allow for only doing the bare minimum, public relations isn’t one of them. 

If you’re a salaried employee with a PR firm, you need to be prepared to earn your pay by putting in 110% at all times, always being ready to take on a challenging new project and not shying away from hard work. 

There may be times when you’ll need to put in extra hours or maybe even work through a weekend or two. 

professional initiative

If you understand all this before going into your first PR job, you’re bound to fare much better than an entry-level employee who had hoped to immediately rocket to the top of the corporate ladder. 

This sense of initiative is definitely a skill that can be developed over time, but it’s also often a trait that a professional can identify in him- or herself before entering the industry. 

Based on how you’ve handled past jobs and even your education, you should be able to get a sense for how hard you’re willing to work and what it takes to discourage you from committing to a goal. 

If you decide you want to commit to a career in PR, then you will also need to be someone who works hard every single day.