With the new year into its second month, it’s critical for all PR professionals to revisit the past 12 months, set short and long-term goals, and ensure that they’re set up for success in 2021. Of course, this leads to a variety of questions, one of which is: what skills are most important to growing your career in 2021?
While there’s no one-size-fits-all answer to this question, there are specific skills every PR professional should focus on developing or maintaining this year.
1. Thick Skin
The PR industry is more competitive today than ever before. Furthermore, your clients expect more out of you than ever before. So, with this in mind, you must have thick skin.
When you take everything personally, it’ll begin to wear you down. When that happens, there’s a greater chance of becoming upset with your clients and/or coworkers, and burning out. Developing a thick skin isn’t easy, but focus on this in 2021. This can be as simple as learning how to take constructive criticism and not taking feedback personally. It’s not a traditional skill, but it’s one that will serve you well throughout your career.
Even if you’re a “one man/woman PR firm,” the ability to work on a team is critical to your success. Maybe you work alongside contractors. Perhaps you work with designers and copywriters. And of course, you work with your clients.
There’s a lot that goes into effective collaboration, but it’s a skill you can’t ignore. Focus on qualities such as:
- Clear communication.
- Ability to use multiple collaboration tools.
- Effective listening habits
You want to be known as someone who works well on a team. You don’t want to be the person that others don’t want to work with. This won’t get you very far.
3. Problem Solving
Every career involves problem-solving, and this is especially true for PR professionals. From clients that change their mind at the last second to outstanding invoices, you’ll face one problem after the next. What matters most in this profession isn’t necessarily how these problems happen, but how you deal with these issues. The most successful PR professionals are those who can think on the fly, address problems promptly, and take steps to avoid a similar situation in the future.
Problem-solving isn’t a skill you develop overnight. It takes time and practice, so do your best to focus on this over the months to come. This is one of many skills that can set you apart from others in your space.
Flexibility has always been a must-have skill in the PR industry, but it’s even more important to your success in 2021.
For example, just the same as 2020, there’s a good chance that you—along with your co-workers and clients—will be working from home while dealing with a variety of challenges. All professionals, no matter the industry, must be able to successfully continue work from home and transfer their skills to any working environment, as that allows them to remain productive no matter the circumstances.
At first, you’ll find it difficult to be more flexible. This is particularly true if you’re the type of person who generally likes to follow the same schedule, day in and day out. However, if you cling to your old way of doing things, it’s more likely that you’ll get left behind by a fast-paced industry.
The PR industry of today is nothing like it was a year ago. Most likely, the PR industry at the end of 2021 isn’t going to look the same as it does today.
Forward-thinking PR professionals can project what will happen down the road, thus allowing them to adjust their career paths and strategies accordingly. For example, technology is becoming more ingrained in the PR industry, ranging from collaboration tools to video meetings with clients. Yes, you must focus on the here and now, but it never hurts to think about what the future will bring. This allows you to spot trends that will benefit you over the long run.
How to Develop These Skills
There’s no right or wrong way to develop these skills, among others, as a PR professional. Some people catch on right away, without even thinking about it. Others have to consciously make an effort to improve in these areas.
Make a list of the skills that you want to improve on in 2021. Track your progress and tweak your approach as necessary. Also, there’s nothing wrong with asking your mentor, manager, and/or co-workers for help. It may not seem like it right now, but as you develop these skills you’ll find that you’re better at your job and more inclined to make the right decision the first time around.
Even though the PR landscape continues to evolve, it doesn’t mean you’ll find yourself on the outside looking in. You can protect against this by evolving yourself, such as by focusing on the five skills detailed above. With the right approach, you’ll find yourself feeling good about the future state of your career and the direction in which the industry is headed.