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10 tips to maximize the impact of soft skills training for PR professionals

by | Jan 29, 2024 | Public Relations

PR professionals need technical—or “hard”—skills for aspects such as social media management, client research, and data analytics. But interpersonal—or “soft”—skills such as communication, problem-solving, leadership, teamwork, and organization are just as important for a career in PR.

It’s often said that soft skills can’t be taught, but that’s not entirely true—they come more naturally to some people, but everyone can develop them with practice. In this post, we’ll explore the importance of soft skills training courses for PR pros, and how to maximize the impact.

Importance of soft skills in PR

PR professionals must have great communication skills to distribute brand messaging effectively and to present their ideas for PR campaigns in an engaging way. They have to build strong relationships with their clients and with the media, and work with a range of teams, from IT and marketing to the C-suite.

Creativity and innovation are also essential soft skills for PR, enabling professionals to come up with new ideas and think again if the first approach doesn’t work out. This also requires problem-solving capabilities and a knack for critical thinking.

Other relevant soft skills include time management, multi-tasking, and organizational skills, especially when it comes to strategic planning. PR teams must also be able to adapt quickly to changing circumstances and stay calm in a crisis. If it sounds like a lot, it’s because it is, and that’s exactly why you should consider soft skills training courses for your PR professionals.

10 tips to maximize the impact of soft skills training for PR professionals

Image sourced from hubspot.com

How to maximize the impact of soft skills training for PR

  • Tailor training for specific brand-related challenges

Rather than offering generalized soft skills training courses, it’s more effective to tailor them to specific challenges faced by PR professionals. Highlight, for example, the most common issues that come with running PR campaigns for different types of organizations, such as businesses, nonprofits, and government agencies.

You could categorize the training into modules on topics such as crisis management, promoting a new brand, and managing internal communications, and demonstrate how the pros can use their soft skills in each scenario.

  • Provide media training for effective messaging

Whether they’re part of a company’s in-house PR team or working for various clients through an agency, PR professionals need people skills for effective liaison with the media. It’s vital to develop a network of reliable contacts and to maintain healthy relationships with them.

Participants should learn strategies for creating media statements, speaking at a press conference, and being interviewed by journalists. You can also offer tips on deciding which form of media is most effective for each message.

  • Apply skills directly in actual work scenarios

It’s always helpful to see how new skills are relevant in the real world. Soft skills training courses should include roleplay and dialogue simulation for different situations, with PR pros learning to present campaign ideas, hold difficult conversations, and think on their feet in a crisis. They can then apply the skills in an actual work setting and carry out an assessment of the results.

  • Measure training impact with defined KPIs

Soft skills are not easy to quantify. But you won’t know how impactful your training has been unless you can measure its effectiveness. You’ll need to decide on KPIs and compare the results before and after training.

If you’re seeing improvements in client acquisition and retention, or getting a higher share of voice for a brand, then the PR team is performing well. Other KPIs might include active coverage, potential reach, client satisfaction scores, and open rates for press releases.

But training impact is not the only thing you’ll want to measure: you’ll also need to work out how much your training courses are costing you and ensure that they’re not negatively impacting your bottom line. 

Look at your accounting and expense management software to see how much you’re spending per participant, and decide if you need to cut it down or if there’s still room to add more elements to your training courses.

10 tips to maximize the impact of soft skills training for PR professionals

  • Acknowledge and address individual learning needs

Not everyone responds to training in the same way. Some prefer traditional classroom-based methods, others prefer 1:1 training, and some like to learn alone at their own pace. It’s best to offer a combination of delivery styles, including in-person and online courses.

We already mentioned roleplaying, but you could also use virtual reality for exercise-based training. Team-building activities also help to enhance collaboration skills. Use employee scheduling software to identify and create a time slot that works for the whole team and look into video conferencing tools to ensure that everyone (including PR pros working remotely) can attend.

  • Arrange relationship-building and networking events

Organizing an event gives PR professionals a chance to put their newly learned soft skills into practice and develop them further. Whether the event is in-person or online, the team can interact with local and/or national media representatives, plus fellow PR pros.

They’ll be able to grow their network of contacts, so that there’s always someone to reach out to when the occasion arises. They can also learn from others in the industry, hone their active listening skills, and get inspiration.

  • Provide post-training resources for ongoing support

Even with comprehensive training, PR professionals need to carry on learning after the formal sessions are complete. Trainers should make it clear that this is expected and provide the necessary resources and support.

These resources might include an online knowledge base, session summaries, and refresher courses. The idea is that people can brush up on their essential skills whenever they need to, which encourages continuous learning and keeps them motivated and engaged.

  • Encourage peer collaboration for shared learning

Soft skills courses aren’t just about a trainer delivering information. By collaborating with colleagues as they learn, PR professionals can enhance their social skills, too. You might split participants into groups to take on training challenges or have them solve problems together.

Mentoring from more experienced colleagues is also a form of peer-to-peer learning, alongside job shadowing for new hires. All professionals should be encouraged to share knowledge with their peers.

10 tips to maximize the impact of soft skills training for PR professionals

  • Establish regular feedback mechanisms for improvement

Giving and receiving feedback helps PR pros develop emotional intelligence skills. You could use a 360-degree feedback assessment, taking input from participants and their colleagues and managers to see how training has improved their job performance. Use surveys to identify what participants found most useful and their suggestions for future sessions. 

  • Recognize and reward the positive training outcomes

Incentivization is an effective technique for helping participants make the most of soft skills development and boosting employee morale. You don’t have to offer monetary rewards, but you can recognize hard work and improvement by publicly praising achievements on company comms channels or social media. Virtual badges are also a fun idea, alongside formal certification. 

Key takeaways

Soft skills training courses are ideal for PR professionals, helping them develop effective communication, creative thinking, and time-management skills. These are important not only for professional development but also for personal life.

To maximize the positive impact of soft skills training, you should tailor it to brand-related challenges and real-world scenarios. Incorporate different learning styles, measure the outcomes, and take feedback to improve your soft skills training courses for the future.

Brian Flores
Brian is a freelance writer with extensive marketing tools and tech writing experience. His content marketing articles are widely seen in a variety of martech guides and posts.

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