PR Technologist: Why You Need One

(And for up-and-coming PR Pros, why you need to be one)

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  • Many of the biggest stories in the last year broke on Twitter first – Whitney Houston’s death, the raid on Bin Laden’s tomb and the verdict in the Amanda Knox trial.Press releases aren’t just for journalists anymore – they help keep your website fresh with content.Many journalists respond better to pitches via Twitter and/or Facebook than email.
  • A story on television is nice, but it’s even better when there’s an online story to go with it. Why? For search engine purposes, of course!

The list of ways in which news, public relations and technology are interweaved could go on and on and on. In fact, the interdependence of PR on technology grows every day.  Technology has made it easy for anyone to communicate faster and more frequently. The downside of this, of course, is an overabundance of pitches, press releases and ideas coming at journalists (who are now all the more exposed thanks to Twitter, search engine and publicly-listed emails) fast and furiously.

The PR professional of today must possess the traditional PR skillsets like great writing skills, creativity, the ability to craft relevant and timely news pitches to targeted reporters, an understanding of how a newsroom works,  and strong presentation and communication skills.

But, they must also horde sharp technology skills.

So, what exactly is a PR technologist? Of course, the relationship between PR and technology isn’t a new topic, but the term is one I read about from Lisa Gerber. It resonated with me not only because I identified with the skillset, but because I believe the term encapsulates the PR professional of the future.

A PR technologist should:

  1. Understand SEO basics. PR pros need to understand keywords and how they should be chosen and incorporated in web content, and the importance of sharing content between news coverage and press releases so a website isn’t penalized for duplicate content.
  2. Understands web speak such as servers, JavaScript, HTML 5, CSS and so on.  They may not need to be fluent, but they know enough to communicate with our geekier  IT counterparts. Using something other than Internet Explorer can win bonus points with that crowd!
  3. Blogs. They must understand how to repurpose content from newsrooms and the blog. They should also have our hands in clients’ blogs if for no other reason than for the sake of consistent messaging. Blog writing is far different than news writing, and a PR technologist should be able to adjust writing-style to fit the format.
  4. Understands various content management systems. They should be able to update newsrooms (at the very least) and other pages on the site in some of the more prevalent and establish content management systems, such as WordPress or Joomla.   A great deal of this involves a base-level understanding of how pages are delivered and how to use a web-based text editor.
  5. Uses social media regularly. They should be active on various platforms and know how to “speak” on each one. They should also know about and use new or  lesser-known platforms such as Reddit or Quora, which can be a true asset.
  6. Understands social media analytics. There are hundreds of ways to measure social media from reach to RT’s to Facebook Insights to influencer ratings to shares. When it comes to social media, they need to know WHAT to measure, HOW to measure, the WAYS to measure, and the TOOLS to use.
  7. Proactively monitors social media mentions. Within a company, there are few that know better how to react to good and bad brand mentions that the PR team. A good PR technologist should be monitoring brand mentions and help craft responses when their brand is mentioned online.

I’ve long said that the best way to learn something is to do it. So, if you want to learn how to become a social media technologist, start using social media, social media measurement and monitoring platforms, blog and read as many other blogs as you can, and keep up with the ever-changing world of SEO.   If you’re hiring an agency or PR pro to do PR for you, be sure that

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