If staying current in today's PR world is important to you, adopt the famous aphorism often attributed to Mahatma Gandhi: "Learn as if you were to live forever." This article highlights skills that remain essential—and some new skills we're all going to need for future PR success.

Remember, professional growth is an investment you never stop making if you want to remain valuable in business.

1. Polish your writing and editing

The fundamental skill of our craft remains writing—news or feature, online or print. If you can't string words together interestingly to tell a story, you're going to be working with a serious handicap. The most frequent error is writing in academic- or corporate-speak.

Use plain language. Eliminate the use of passive voice, infinitives, or past tense. Active voice and present tense are ideal. Varying sentence structure will get you points as well. Whether you're writing for online (digital media) or print, terse but informative writing without buzzwords wins the day. Reading a lot, including good literature, will definitely help your writing. The more you write, the better you'll become at it.

Keep in mind that most people don't read today; they scan everything, especially emails. Studies show we tend to read in an "F" pattern—top left to right, left to right, little bit of left, and on to the next document. So today you have precious few words to get attention, make your point, build interest, and generate action. Make it personal, make it interesting, and make it quick.
2. Become clearly strategic

Too often, PR campaigns take off without a flight plan. Sometimes, Marketing, or whoever is calling the shots, needs help defining and agreeing on direction. Get comfortable understanding and knowing the difference between objectives, strategies, and tactics. Many people don't. Better yet, become knowledgeable about the entire campaign-planning process. That includes branding or product differentiation, including competitive analysis and positioning.

Create relevant strategic messaging that connects with audiences and communities. Learn how to dramatize a position or message. Become very clear about how tactics must be connected to strategy. Discover the use of visual messaging and creative strategy. By growing in those important areas, you'll offer far more value than merely executing programs.

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image of Ford Kanzler

Ford Kanzler is principal at Marketing/PR Savvy, a public relations and communications firm.

LinkedIn: Ford Kanzler



H. Buford Barr has lectured in marketing and communications at Santa Clara University, with which he has been associated since 1989. His professional career includes senior marketing positions at Actel, NV Philips, McCann-Erickson Advertising, and General Electric.