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Before Christmas, I met with a few of the fine people who teach courses in McGill University’s PR certificate program.

We talked about a variety of things, including me making a few guest appearances in some of their classes. Very exciting stuff, as I love speaking and will, I am sure, learn a lot from the students and the experience.

The group I met with stressed the need for practicality in PR schooling, and acknowledged that elements of the craft are really only learned on the job (hence McGill’s focus on getting students into internships).

The conversation got me thinking about what skills give today’s PR students an edge.

Certain abilities will always be needed to carry out successful PR. For instance, writing and managing relationships will always remain integral. If empathy is the ability to put oneself in another’s shoes, I submit that this is – for now and the foreseeable future – the most important skill for any PR pro (or marketer).

However, new realities mean that aptitudes once dubbed relevant for “others” now give budding PR pros a leg up.

Here are 3 such skills:

  1. Writing code. I confess I haven’t ever written a line of code. It would be handy to know how! The incredible explosion of mobile has some saying HTML5 will be an essential skill PR pros. Time will tell. However, there are now many great courses on coding available online. Taking one will give you a knowledge base that will impress the older flacks who seek to hire new web savvy blood.
  2. Shooting and editing video (well). A few years ago the Flip Cam took PR by storm. My bet is the GoPro camera will be the next rage. Cameras will come and go but the need for quickly produced, well edited video is only going to increase. If you’re young and coming up you NEED to know how to shoot and cut up footage. If you get an interview and are good, I’d suggest showing a prospective employer samples of your video work.
  3. The ability to turn off and focus. Feels kinda funny to write that. However, if you’re a millenial, know that older people (even people my age – I’m 36) probably assume you have no attention span. You grew up with the web, you’ve had a mobile device in your hand for all of your adult life, and as a generation you’ve got a collective rep of having the attention span of a gnat. Regardless of perceptions, being able to turn off the phone, ply yourself away from IM and social media is important. Turning off has become a skill in the digital age; like any skill it requires honing.

That’s it for me. Perhaps you have things to add?

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