An online survey conducted in April and May among 450 members of the
Counselors Academy, a Professional Interest Section of the Public
Relations Society of America, revealed that mastering social media
skills is one of the top three issues for PR professionals in 2009/2010.

The survey questions were divided into four categories:  Client Relations, Media and Technology, External Issues and Partnerships and Resources.

Key results:

1.  Providing authentic, strategic counsel
2.  Mastering social media skills
3.  Demonstrating return on investment
4.  Enhancing technology capabilities
5.  The economy
6.  Measuring results
7.  values and ethics management
8.  developing strategic partnerships
9.  decline of traditional media
10. the 24/7 news cycle

“The top issues are related to how agencies must focus on providing value and ethically-driven, strategic and authentic client service,” said Sydney Ayers, APR, chair of the Counselors Academy and president of Denver-based Ayers Public Relations. “The results indicate the kind of forward thinking going on among senior counselors throughout the United States.”

Why single out PR people? The Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) reports that approximately 70 percent of all social media programs are being driven by public relations professionals.

“Public relations professionals are finally being recognized as ‘the corporate voice’ for social media activities,” says Patricia Faubhaber, author of the Making the Media Connection, in an article at Suite 101. “Public relations people have all of the skills social media experts require such as staying on message, building and maintaining relationships, always understanding that content remains king, and they can spread the word faster and better than anyone.”

“Social media is a method of communication”, writes Jason Falls in his blog. “Social media tools facilitate these communications. To be effective in social media, whether as a marketer or just an ordinary participant, you must, first and foremost, communicate well.And yes, social media tools are mostly driven by technology. But they are driven by technology to deliver a message or messages. You don’t trust your IT department to lay out your print ad. Why would you trust them to run your blog?”

Other surveys show that one of the main reasons companies are not yet active in social media is a lack of knowledgeable personnel or access to suitable training.

The media landscape is changing rapidly. This post by the Vice Provost of USC lays out how the Internet has changed our viewing and listening patterns – and why he sees it as ‘game over.’

It’s definitely time for PR professionals to master social media skills.