The Top Eight Skills Every Effective Public Affairs Expert Must Master

Many people ask what it’s like to work in public affairs and what skills are needed to be an effective communicator. Outlined below are some core skills and knowledge sets that are often applied by communications strategists daily:

  • Effective Writing: Writing is essential and necessary to any communications job and is considered a baseline capability among those in the industry. Understanding style guides and following correct grammar and structural rules is a must. A skilled strategist has mastered how to not only write, but how to write effectively and persuasively.
  • Hybrid of Attention to Detail and Big Picture Thinking: Sometimes the job of a communicator requires attention to detail and other times it requires the ability to think outside of the box to advance the narratives and messaging of clients. Knowing when and how to utilize each of these skillsets makes for a seasoned and skilled communications strategist.
  • Multitasking and Organization: Mastery of these skills is necessary to be at the top of your game. Communicators are often juggling multiple unrelated projects daily and knowing the status of their various elements is important to the many moving pieces of the overall strategy. These skills are extremely valuable if you want to be an effective communicator for your clients.
  • Desire to Learn: It’s imperative for communications professionals to have a willingness to and interest in continuing their learning. The policy, media and communications landscapes are ever-changing and knowing how to navigate those changes is crucial to ensuring best practices are consistently being followed, that that out-of-date platforms and tactics are replaced with the most up-to-date and effective ones.
  • Public Speaking: While many people have a fear of public speaking, effective communications strategists understand the importance of mastering this skill. To advocate successfully for our clients, it often means being able to communicate a point of view clearly and concisely to stakeholders, influencers, policymakers, members of the media, or the clients themselves. Additionally, this is imperative to best prepare and train clients to speak out effectively on their issues to key audiences and stakeholders.
  • Understanding of Media Platforms: This is crucial to providing sound counsel and advice. Knowing the media climate as well as the various modes of communication across diverse platforms enables communications strategists to determine the best avenue for a pitch, interview, or follow-up story. A healthy daily consumption of news is vital to ensuring that a communicator is staying up to date on media happenings and is well-read on the happenings of the world.
  • Knowledge of Social Media Landscape:Understanding how to effectively communicate a narrative or messaging via social media is essential. More than ever, reporters and policymakers are receiving their information from social media and these platforms provide an opportunity to share critical messages to various audiences. Advising on what platforms to use and how to optimize those platforms is a key component of any communications strategist’s job.
  • Expect the Unexpected: The most important aspect of any communications strategist’s daily job is understanding that some things may happen outside of your control, and knowing how to tackle those unexpected challenges through diligent planning and strategy will help guide your clients through any potential hurdles.