Strategies & Tactics

Down to Business: 5 Skills to Sharpen in 2019

January 3, 2019

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A new year is the perfect time to set professional-development goals. Here are five increasingly important — but often overlooked — PR skills you can sharpen in 2019:


When I interview job candidates it always raises a red flag when the applicant admits that they’re “not a numbers person.” As communications professionals, we have to stop tolerating the commonly held view that it’s OK for people in our industry to be “bad at math.”

To better serve our clients, we have to understand how they make money. We need financial literacy to analyze annual reports, manage budgets and read financial documents such as balance sheets and profit-and-loss statements.
Financial skills are also of utmost importance for PR practitioners who want to climb the ladder at agencies, where it’s crucial to understand factors that affect and improve the bottom line.

Emotional intelligence

We don’t talk enough about the importance of emotional intelligence in our profession. Also called “EQ,” this skill is the ability to recognize, understand and manage our own emotions (and those of others), especially when we’re under pressure. Emotional intelligence means knowing that our emotions can determine our behavior and affect the people around us, for better or worse.

As public trust in traditional media erodes, it’s becoming even more important for PR pros to communicate with empathy, especially in high-stakes or crisis situations. Emotional intelligence provides that empathy, and helps build and strengthen relationships with colleagues, stakeholders and clients inside and outside of your organization. With our national culture demanding authenticity, self-awareness and vulnerability have become assets, not weaknesses.

Risk management

Preventing or mitigating risk might seem like the legal department’s responsibility, but our Code of Ethics also calls upon us to protect our clients. It’s imperative that PR practitioners learn to identify internal and external threats, and how to hedge against them.

If you work in a highly regulated industry such as health care or banking, then familiarize yourself with applicable laws and help ensure compliance.

Nonverbal communication

Nonverbal communication skills help you project self-confidence and make your messages more effective. To become a trusted counselor to clients, you need executive presence — which includes the nonverbal communication of posture and body language, eye contact, hand gestures and facial expressions that punctuate your words.


OK, this skill is more essential than underrated. But seasoned PR professionals might reach a point where they become complacent and stop trying to improve their writing, or even let it decline. Whether you’re in your first job or have practiced our profession for decades, you can always improve your writing skills. How? Make it a daily habit to read good writing in newspapers and books, and to write and edit your own work.

With communication constantly evolving, our most demanding days are still ahead of us. But by incorporating these skills into your toolbox this year, you’ll be better prepared to rise to the challenge. Happy New Year!

Mandi Kane, APR

Mandi Kane, APR, is a senior managing adviser at Jarrard Phillips Cate & Hancock in Nashville, Tenn. She is a member of PRSA Nashville and PRSA’s Counselors Academy. Follow her on Twitter @TheMandiKane.


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