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Social Media Knowledge Skills and Abilities

Courtesy Deirdre Breakenridge, CEO, Pure Performance Communications

Public relations professionals are known for their proactive attitudes, perseverance in pitching the media, a thick skin when it comes to rejection and the ability to build relationships, as well as their great oral and written skills. These are all important KSAs (Knowledge, Skills, Abilities) you need to be successful in public relations. However, social media has changed the way that public relations professionals approach the strategy and implementation of their public relations programs. Today, social media requires that we expand our KSAs for continued success in our public relations roles.

Here are a few ways that KSAs need to expand:

Strategic Thinker
Strategic thinking is a critical skill. Today, we have to expand strategic planning to assure that social media is integrated properly with other brand communications and that there is a purpose behind a brand’s social interaction with the public. It’s the simple question “Why are we using social media?” which is often overlooked. public relations professionals have to know what they’re trying to achieve through social media activities, how social media goals align with higher level business objectives, how to create more humanized stories/content through social channels, the best way to track or listen to the conversation, and most of all, how to measure outcomes. Strategic thinking needs to move beyond just creating outputs (tweets, posts, videos and blog posts) to building relationships that lead to bottom line value.

The Ultimate Liaison
We’re used to being the liaison to manage and facilitate communication, whether it’s with the media, community groups, employees, analysts or investors. Today our liaison skills are tested as many of us are spearheading internal social media efforts within our own organizations. From building a cross-functional team to work on social strategy and policies to communicating to other employees about internal collaborative platforms, we are bringing various groups of employees together. The ultimate liaison learns to move beyond the marketing communications department, to include other areas of the company, including sales, IT, legal, HR, R&D, etc., to share, collaborate and innovate together.

The Versatile Writer
It’s a part of our jobs to learn different types of public relations writing. Public relations professionals are skilled in writing news releases, speech writing, editorial opinions (OpEd), newsletters, website copy, etc. However, as a result of social media, our writing expands into new areas, including blogs, Twitter, Facebook, social media releases (SMRs), and other types of content in order to spark passion and interest. Being versatile in your writing and developing a style to satisfy the needs of people you’re trying to reach is a skill that will be tested, beginning with the interview process.

Relationship Builder
Public relations professionals have always been known to build strong relationships. Social media requires us to discover a new approach to relationship building skills and to learn to connect on a deeper level. We are not only required to create relationships for the brand by working through bloggers and journalists in the social landscape, but we are also connecting with consumers directly to help them with their questions, issues and concerns. The deep connections lead more quickly to higher level interactions, including advocacy and loyal customers.

The Advanced Researcher
The public relations program begins with research, and we measure behaviors and changes in opinion all the way through. Social media takes research to a whole new level. Public relations professionals are monitoring/tracking conversations closely. They’re listening more frequently to what’s being said about the brand, its products and services, executives and competition, as well as trending topics that interest their audiences. The advanced researcher is finely tuned to the needs of the public, which leads to the creation of more meaningful content.

The Technological Thinker
Social media enables public relations professionals to be content publishers and to participate in collaborative platforms. We’re rolling up our sleeves to become skilled in technology; using platforms, tools and resources that are completely new to us. The days of relying on digital creatives and IT for certain tasks now falls in our domain. As technological thinkers, we have the knowledge to work in content management systems (CMS), create videos and distribute them, and to use collaborative platforms to make our teams more productive and efficient.

The Risk Manager
If there is one area in public relations that deserves constant attention, it’s risk management. Social media allows us to have knowledge to prevent a crisis from sparking by diligently tracking and monitoring brand conversations and addressing issues more quickly than we could ever do before. Being a risk manager or a “pre-crisis prevention doctor” is a critical function. The ability to be a proactive listener keeps the public relations professional involved in social media communications from onset of the initiative, delivering key information to protect the brand.

Social media causes us to think, prepare and act differently in our roles. Our knowledge has increased, and we’re sharpening our skills and abilities. These expanded KSAs allow us to be more strategic to guide public interactions with our companies and to spearhead social media within our own organizations.

Deirdre Breakenridge, CEO of Pure Performance Communications (, Speaker and Author of “Putting the Public Back in Public Relations and PR 2.0 New Media, New Tools, New Audiences.”