ImageSkimming a newspaper over a cup of coffee is no longer the normal morning routine. Now, it’s scanning through your Twitter smartphone app as soon as you roll out of bed for the latest headlines and breaking news down to the minute it happens. It’s logging into Facebook where your news sources are your friends and family. Young public relations professionals know this because, well, they are the product of this social media news phenomenon. In fact, over 50% of people have learned about breaking news via social media rather than the official news source (Mashable). News organizations with websites are not missing out – since 2009, traffic to news sites from social media platforms has increased 57% (The State of the Media).

Traditional Skills in New Roles

Social media has now become a necessary tool for public relations professionals to use, understand and prosper in. For new professionals, this may seem like an easy role to fill. But be careful, many of the same traditional public relations rules still apply. So don’t worry traditional PR pros; digital public relations professionals need many of the same skills, including:

  • Great communications skills (written and verbal). Part of your responsibility as a digital public relations professional is to be able to build relationships through social media. Building relationships requires excellent regular and relevant communication. You have to be able to respond quickly and convey your message clearly, all while keeping it under a couple hundred characters. Communication, however, is not a one-way street. Neither is social media communication. First, identify the right targets. These key influencers are expecting someone to engage them, not just continually ‘talk at’ them. We advise mentioning articles they wrote, commenting on a question they post and asking questions in return.
  • Desire to network and build new relationships.  Most likely, your industry requires understanding and reaching multiple target audiences in a variety of verticals.  While being selective and specific is important, you should have the desire to expand and strengthen your network within these verticals.
  • Ability to analyze and understand the needs of others. In order to secure high-quality placements for your company’s content, you have to be able to explain to sources and journalists “WIIFT” (or what’s in it for them). Again, public relations should not be one-sided; it’s about creating mutually beneficial relationships.

The Biggest Difference

Success in digital PR heavily relies on mastery of networking through online communities and social media. However, don’t feel constrained to social media as your only source of online outreach; a well-crafted email pitch can work wonders.  It’s important to not send out generic pitches everywhere, but make it apparent you are a frequent visitor of the recipient’s site and understand the type of content they welcome.  The same three skills mentioned previously all apply to a well-written email to editors and journalists, too.

Social media savvy is a unique skill and advantage that not all traditional PR pros have figured out yet and is now included in a public relations professional’s job description. Make sure you know how to improve and build media relationships through social networking.