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Why you shouldn’t lose sleep over a PR skills gap

By Tim Lines, Associate Director, Nelson Bostock Unlimited

It feels like “skills gap” stories are everywhere. As the world changes and technology continues to rapidly shift the way that we live and work, it is almost inevitable that skills need to catch-up. From engineering to education; all disciplines and industries are affected by a perceived shortage of key skills. And PR is no exception. But are those fears justified?

It should come as no surprise that skills in our industry have been questioned. PR continues to transform itself year after year. You only have to look at the scale and the breadth of the work at one of the industry’s many awards to see that! So the skills that were integral 15 years ago are, in some cases, barely relevant today. Whether that’s how you pitch a story, gather insights for your big campaign idea, or evaluate your impact.

However, the core skills of Public Relations – of storytelling, engagement and influence – remain the same. It’s how we apply those skills that is changing. Talk of a “skills gap” ignores the simple truth that our most important skill is (and will always be) how quickly we can adapt; whether that’s understanding the changes in the media, consumer behaviour or the rise of a new social platform. It might be a constant challenge to keep pace but it is not a race we’re losing. By watching constantly and learning quickly, we can help our clients make sense of the world around them. That is our greatest skill.

Forward-thinking agencies will actively look for people who bring something a little different and can help the agency grow. We need and depend on diversity of people and skills. As employers, we need to create environments that get the best out of the talent which we recruit. On the other side of the fence, new joiners will actively look for agencies that can help them to challenge themselves, learn and progress.

In a complex and fast-changing world, you need PRs more than ever. While we trade on our consultancy and skills, we never sit on our laurels. The only skill that really matters is our ability to spot an opportunity and to learn quickly; and that must never change.