PRSA Portland Metro Chapter

Why Soft Skills Matter in Public Relations (or in any job)

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Jan 13

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by Mac Prichard

I’m often asked by job seekers interested in working in public relations in Oregon what qualities matter most to my colleagues and me at Prichard Communications when we hire new staff in Portland.

Good question! Every position in every field, including public relations, requires excellent technical skills and experience. At my firm, we look for good writers who are well organized, know basic online tools, and have a record of accomplishment in public relations.

But being a good writer, having lots of WordPress tricks up your sleeve, and a portfolio of work samples is just the first step.

Equally important for my colleagues and I are the so-called soft skills: knowing how to listen to others (especially customers), working as a part of a team, and — above all — figuring out how to meet a customer’s needs.

Here’s our short list at Prichard Communications of some of the soft skills we want when we interview candidates and why they matter:

Relationships

People hire people they know, or who are recommended to them by people they trust. Almost all our business comes by word of mouth. To get it, we have built good and trusted relationships with colleagues and customers and our future success depends on finding employees who know how to do this, too.

Teamwork

Today’s workplace demands collaboration. We highly value staff that work well with others, especially across different organizations, and so do our clients.

Flexibility

For many American workers, the era of big, bureaucratic organizations is over. Even at large employers, however, priorities can change quickly. Our customers expect us to be nimble and able to turn on a dime.

Learning

These days everybody, not just public relations practitioners, has to be a life-long learner. Job candidates who join professional groups, attend webinars and workshops, and monitor the latest newsletters and blogs stand out and impress our customers.

Listening

Sometimes people – colleagues or customers — don’t know what they want or have trouble explaining a need or point. One of the most valuable assets any company can have is staff that knows how to listen to others, draw people out, and help everybody understand each other. Divas and monologists? Not so useful.

While my firm provides public relations and social media services, these soft skills would be useful in almost any profession. Just Google the phrase “what employers want” and you’ll find the qualities I’ve described in most of the online lists of desirable skills like this one of 12 Essentials for Success from the University of Oregon’s Holden Leadership Center. And Jessica Baron at Oregon State University’s very useful Career Beaver blog recently posted about the importance employers now place on emotional intelligence.

Mac Prichard is president of Prichard Communications, a Portland-based public relations firm, and publisher of Mac’s List, an online job site for jobs, internships, events, and volunteer opportunities in Oregon.

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