What does a day in the life of the digital public relations professional look like? Today, your practice can be described in two simple words: you are “always on.” When the Internet became our stomping ground for public communications, reaction time had to be much more immediate. Of course, social media continued to fuel the “always on” feeling even more because networks don’t rest and brands have to be prepared. When you accept a position in PR, you quickly learn the nature of the job requires attention at all times of the day or night, and new skills and practices are constantly in development.
My book, “Social Media and Public Relations: Eight New Practices for the PR Professional,” presents many new practices that demonstrate this notion of “always on.” As a matter of fact, if you break down the average day of the digital PR professional, you will quickly see why you need to incorporate this idea of “always on” into your everyday activities and your daily regimen.
As a digital PR professional, you’re “always on” because you are:
Technology Savvy: PR people don’t have to code databases, unless it’s something you want to learn. However, you do need to know how to create a WordPress blog and build profiles on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other major social channels. Understanding where and how your audiences participate on different platforms, with a good working knowledge of strategic use, is also critical. If you can’t answer questions about Pinterest vs. Instagram or Facebook vs. Tumblr, then you need to roll up your sleeves and learn those differences quickly. Ask yourself a simple question: How will you guide your executives’ brand communication if you can’t answer these questions for them?
Proactive: There is no sitting back (ever) and feeling complacent that your stakeholders have what they need. You must be proactively “listening” or monitoring their conversations, feelings, ideas and ways they want to interact with you. Being proactive means that you are using the latest technology to fully understand these conversations and the consumer perceptions they expose. You’re learning how to engage as a better partner, employer, resource and problem solver. Of course, actively listening and being connected through social media will also prevent negative dialogue from escalating into unexpected crisis situations.
Flexible: Thinking your day will be the same every day is almost asking for the impossible. Are you really able to predict what your day looks like? As a best practice, you can plan your initiatives, but in the age of public communications, your daily interactions may change drastically from hour to hour or even minute to minute. Having the flexibility to respond to your stakeholders in real time is where digital PR professionals can truly serve their brands. You also have to be open and willing to explore new ways of communication as technology continues to advance and platforms improve their functionality.
Strategic/Critical Thinker: PR professionals use tactics to support their communications programs. However, we are not just tactical doers. On the contrary, brands are looking for strategists who focus on a planned approach with goals and objectives in place, show a deep understanding of their audience, develop messages that resonate with stakeholders, reach people where they congregate and use measurement that will capture the desired actions. Sending out news releases, tweeting and posting to Facebook are the tactical elements of a communications program. Why, when and how we participate, through specific channels, is the strategic thinking required for communications success.
Accountable: PR professionals have to take accountability to a higher level. Accountability tied directly to the bottom line is the accountability that executives love to see. However, that’s not always possible. The good news is they also want to see communications impact in the form of customer satisfaction tied to positive sentiment and testimonials, editorial coverage across different media (including social media), reputation maintenance and greater awareness of the brand, which is often a part of the ROI puzzle. PR doesn’t always have a direct tie to the bottom line, but when our results are a part of a larger marketing and sales picture, the accountability becomes more visible. Another key takeaway here is that you can’t work in a vacuum and your accountability should be a part of a larger team effort.
Of course, these are only a few of the skills and practices that should be on your digital PR checklist. Call it a part of the job description of the future, or what you might see in a job posting for a PR position. Either way, it’s your opportunity to blend great PR skills with new media communications. To truly embrace the “always on” mindset, you must commit yourself to newer skills and practices on a daily basis and as a part of your professional development.
Deirdre Breakenridge is CEO of Pure Performance Communications. A 25-year veteran in public relations, she teaches at NYU and speaks nationally and internationally on the topics of PR, marketing and social media. She is the author of five business books, with her most recent book, “Social Media and Public Relations: Eight New Practices for the PR Professional,” published by Financial Times Press in May 2012.