PR and Marketing Cannot Stand Stagnation. Focus on Developing New Skills!

Found your dream job? Great! But when was the last time you had the chance to learn something new? Experts say that developing own competencies is one of the best investments you can make. In fact, there’s no better way to increase your value in the job market than through self-development. And PR and marketing are no exception here. What will those who have already made a name for themselves and continue to hone their skills will focus on in 2018?

November and December are just one of those months when industry media outlets keep bombarding us with summaries of 2017 [as a reminder, here you can find your forecasts for the passing year 2017] and trends that we should work on in 2018. I bet most of you have already sent your statements and comments to selected titles or are trying to do whatever you can to squeeze in within the deadline, handle all the tasks that are piling up around you, and not fail the journalist that you’ve put on hold. Well, it’s pretty much the same here. And on both fronts. But, keep calm, soon enough you will be able to read here all about the summaries and trends. But before we get to that, check out something quite different.

As long as you’re not one of those people who make solemn pledges to stop doing something every new year, you’ll be happy. Here at Prowly, we dig a real challenge. That’s why we want to focus on getting you to take a step further in the New Year, learn something new, and thus leave (vide: crush) your competitors far behind. So, together with these 12 brilliant experts, I suggest taking the only right path, which is: “Yes, I can do more.”

So, how’s it going to be? Are you in? What skill or competence would you like to improve or learn in 2018? These guys know already:

Lee Odden, CEO at TopRank Marketing@leeodden 

As the CEO of a fast-growing digital marketing agency, I’m particularly interested in working on the inside of our business—the culture, our purpose, the development of people, process, and technology—to help my teams better serve our customers in a way that gives them meaning and job satisfaction as well as brings profitability to the business. How does that optimization of our business purpose and operations translate into a skill? I guess I’d have to boil it down to becoming a better leader—and develop my leadership skills. 

Amy Higgins, Account Manager at TopRank Marketing, @amywhiggins

In 2018, I’d love to be able to set aside time to work on my personal brand. Even though this is not a new skill, I always say that I am going to work on my blog, do more guest blogging, learn video editing, or find the time to speak at more conferences. However, work always gets in the way. Focusing on my personal brand can help my current position by letting our clients get to know my level of expertise on subjects—outside of only their program. It can also help spotlight my expertise with other marketers and allow us to learn from each other. It’s a winning scenario for everyone because we can learn and drive each other forward. As a bonus, working on my personal brand will help my confidence when speaking with clients and my coworkers. By speaking at conferences in front of large crowds, I can hone my presentation skills, which will help in all forms of communication. Currently, I am writing a piece for a travel blog about my latest adventures in Nepal. Even though I am writing more about my experiences and less about marketing tips, writing for a non-marketing or tech site allows me to practice my skills as a storyteller. After all, isn’t content marketer all about telling a good story?

Mordecai Holtz, Co-Founder and Chief Strategist at Blue Thread Marketing@mordecaiholtz 

In anticipation of 2018, I’m looking forward to further develop my communication skills around data. As a digital agency, we’re always learning how to use data better. This is the year that data will be our primary driver.

While my answer will come in three parts, all are data-driven.

  • Data is big business.

It means that I will be able to understand critically, track, and identify important trends and lessons from the numbers. This will be an invaluable asset in 2018.

  • Visualize the data 

It’s one thing to know how to track and analyze. It’s a whole other skill to make it visually appealing and understandable to various stakeholders. I want to learn how to take raw numbers and make them consumable, attractive, and get them to convey a compelling story to everyone involved—from the C-Suite to the consumer.

  • Artificial Intelligence

By now, data-driven content and information is the name of the future business. Taking the BI and using it as a catalyst to automate the process for business solutions, that’s a whole new level. AI is the future. It’s a challenging aspect of blending the data with AI to make them operate in a synchronized and intelligent manner. I want to learn and develop my AI engineering skills, which will teach me how to crunch numbers and use the human intuition to automate better.

Pratik Dholakiya, Founder at Growfusely@DholakiyaPratik 

E2M is a full-service digital marketing agency I co-founded. We take full responsibility for our clients’ online presence, right from content creation to PR coverage of their offline events. What I’ve learned in the course of developing relationships with our clients is that once we’ve built up trust and rapport with them, they tend to place so much faith in our analysis that they leave major marketing decisions up to us.

One thing that I want to get better at is getting clients to dip into their intuition and first-hand data analysis much more than I tend to do. Getting them involved at every step of the way might take up more of my time, but the result will be much more profitable for them, and it will better match their business goals.

This will involve a lot of education and proactive interaction from my team of account managers, to whom I will constantly emphasize the benefits of proactive client education and joint decision making so that my already great team can go to the next level!

Marialetizia Mele, experienced journalist, reporter and editor, founder and manager at Your Brand Journalist@mletiziamele 

Maria Letizia Mele

In 2018, I am going to learn how to become a mobile journalist. We all know journalistic skills are relevant for communications and PR professionals, and the rise of brand journalism proves it; that’s why I believe we should explore the most up-to-date journalistic techniques and understand how to use them in brand communication.

Mobile journalism—or mojo, how pros call it—can teach us how to tell visual stories using a simple device like a smartphone. It’s is not just for breaking news or war reporting: it can become an interesting way to use videos in corporate communication, aiming not to advertise or promote companies, but to find and tell news stories for a brand. Mobile journalism can show us how to shape a different narrative and become visual storytellers with the reporter’s eye: we can do a live interview, report an event or produce educational and documentary short videos for a brand, just using our own devices and our journalistic experience.

As a brand journalist, I think mobile journalism will help me—and any other communication professional—create not only high-quality written but also visual content.

Vlad Shvets, CMO & Growth Marketer, former CMO at Vectr, @VladyslavShvets 

Vlad Shvets

Design. Design meaning the mindset, the way of thinking—not just the skills or the number of tools mastered. Visual plays a huge role in the work of communication specialists, especially now when most of the comms are being done online. Visual representation of the brand and its identity makes a huge difference and often is the key factor for the growth and success of the company. Design, however, goes much deeper than visuals. Design is about the experience; it’s about how things work. Experience is getting more complex too. We are moving from the object-oriented to the system-oriented order of things—the change emanates not from the things but from the way things are done. Communication or marketing professionals without that deep understanding of the experience their audience is getting are lacking a huge perspective—are you choosing to be among them?

Michelle Garrett, writer and PR expert, Garrett Public Relations@PRisUs 

Michelle Garrett

In 2018, I’m looking at learning even more about content marketing. I’m already a bit of a content marketing geek, but I believe it will play an even bigger role in our work in the future.

As PR continues to evolve, it gets closer to the content and social media disciplines. To be a relevant PR pro today, you need to understand how PR fits into the bigger content marketing picture. We have paid and earned media opportunities both playing a role in a brand’s public relations strategy, so how do we as PR pros take advantage of this trend?

Many PR practitioners excel at writing, which I see playing a bigger role in the future, given the growth of branded content. Some of us even have Journalism degrees. If we can make sure to leverage our writing skills to be part of this movement, it will benefit clients. Who is better suited to prepare written content, be it earned or paid?

The self-publishing trend is also a big part of this. As it gets tougher to land earned media placements for clients, more will turn to self-publishing to get the word out. To publish, you need to write. And, you need to understand how to promote the content you publish. We should strive to master all of this.

So, as we move into the new year, I’ll be looking for opportunities to build on my knowledge of content marketing and how to leverage it to help my clients and further my business.

Stephen Waddington, PR expert, blogger and influencer, Partner and Chief Engagement Officer at Ketchum, @wadds 

Artificial intelligence was the shiny new thing in public relations in 2017.

We’re starting to feel the impact of machines in at least three areas: content production; content distribution and publication; and workflow.

In public relations algorithms are commonplace for searching and organizing how information is displayed. We increasingly use tools to make sense of conversations and content shared in networks. Algorithms crunch through huge amounts of data to identify influencers, networks, and trending topics.

Social media promised to democratize media and improve public discourse. Instead, algorithms have created bubbles and polarized communities. Machines are being used to create content. Quill Content reported that it had created more than 15 million words using machine automation for customers including Boden, Regus, and Virgin.

Chatbots, or software applications that seek to interact with people in natural language, are being deployed for good and bad. They’re a new channel for discourse between an organization and its audience.

Public relations, like other professions, is sleepwalking into the issue of artificial intelligence. No one has properly characterized its potential impact on our business.

This needs to change. It’s an issue that I plan to explore and get my head around in 2018.

Timothy Hughes, Co-Founder at

Timothy Hughes

Learn Chinese, with the WeChat company now worth more than Facebook (and my book on Social Selling is now available in Chinese). China has become a nation driving innovation. See you on WeChat!

Richard Bagnall, Chairman of AMEC@richardbagnall

Richard Bagnall

The main skill that I’d like communicators to master in 2018 is the ability to tell the difference between meaningless data and meaningful measurement, evaluation & insight. There are so many digital “monitoring and evaluation” tools being sold to our marketplace right now that the temptation to present the charts and dashboards that they produce without first asking critical questions about their relevance is overwhelming. The skill of planning a campaign, setting meaningful, relevant objectives, aligning on targets and then telling the campaign’s measurement story with insights that inform strategy will define the high-performing teams from the also-rans. If you’re looking for a leg up to do this, then be sure to use AMEC’s Integrated evaluation framework. It’s now been translated into 19 languages and is in use in practice and academia as an educational resource across the world. The framework provides a tailored, step-by-step approach (with plenty of support, prompts and ideas) showing how to set about aligning communications objectives with those of the organization, plan effectively, set measurable targets and then measure appropriately across each of Paid, Earned, Shared and Owned media (PESO). Please use it! And to make things even better—it’s free!

Magdalena Urbaniak, Global Communication Manager at Brand24@Meg_Urbaniak

Magdalena Urbaniak

Next year will be the year of data for me. This means that Google Analytics and Heap will be my new best friends in my tool team. I will definitely not skip developing my soft skills, as I want to keep getting better at both reaching big audience and influencers and working with them. This is something I’ve worked on through the whole 2017, and I’m sure I want to be doing it even more effectively. That’s why I decided to go more into analytics tools. What all case studies show, data is the key factor if you want to get to know how big audiences behave, what they want and expect. To be able to work on quality, we need to know all the quantity possible. I’ve played a little with GA and Heap for the last several months (with Brand24 too, but that’s my first tool in 3 years) and I saw the effects, which encouraged me to do even more. Data is a superpower for PR pros, and I really want to be good at it.

Secondly, I’d love to develop my podcasting skills. Not only because podcasting is a hot trend right now. I feel so honored to talk with the best experts in the industry, so I want to make our BrandTalks podcast super professional for my guests and even more interesting for our listeners.

Ignacio Carabelli, Biblioteca Nacional Mariano Moreno@BNMMArgentina

Ignacio Carabelli

It often happens that we externalize the guilt to justify the fact that our news doesn’t get published, that media might say things that are not exactly true, that a call fails, etc. First, we should ask ourselves how we function internally, what are our points for and against.

I believe that in communication, the results are a consequence of how we are inside and what we do with it before communicating it outwards. Do we expect them to publish a press release when we do not quite know the information from the inside?

For the next twelve months, I would like to work on improving internal communication. Strengthen labor links, expand and optimize the circuit through which information flows. Encourage ourselves to ask more and not less. When the information is shared, the employee feels included, listened to and can contribute his or her know-how. How important is it? In principle, greater unity between the parties, the idea of a conscious team pursuing the same objective is built. Clear rules are established for everyone. From the person who receives your message, passing through the one who writes, to the CEO of the company. The links must come together because everyone contributes in some way to shaping the corporate identity.

Łukasz Kosuniak, B2B Marketing Consultant,, @lukaszkosuniak

Łukasz Kosuniak

2018 will be the year of relevancy, so I see understanding customer insights as a key competency for marketers to master in the upcoming year. The idea of content marketing was implemented in a very shallow way. Marketers just started producing tons of content as a replacement for advertisements. In fact, most of the times content marketing became just a more complicated form of advertisement losing its original goal.

To take full advantage of the content marketing’s potential, marketers need to produce relevant content. Relevancy will be the most precious feature of each content marketing strategy.

Customers have access to an unprecedented amount of information and another article even with the perfect clickbait-like title is no longer going to be perceived as value.

Especially in complex and high consideration goods (business tools, financial products, real estate, etc.) where the stakes are high, customers demand content that directly answers their questions or addresses their objections.

How can you make sure that your content is relevant without a deep understanding of customer’s needs and preferences? Building a consistent customer insight is a key task for modern marketers, and the digital marketing revolution makes it easier and more difficult at the same time.

It’s easier because digital marketing tools are now very effective in gathering an analyzing customer behavior but having data doesn’t mean understanding it.

Here is the challenging part—digital marketing and a wide variety of channels or touchpoints create a pretty complicated environment where it’s easy to build your insights from low-quality or incomplete sources. The only answer to this challenge is to have a direct relationship with the existing, potential or even lost customers and gather insights for future strategies.

This is how we should build Buyer Personas, Customer Journeys or Experience Maps—all answers are in the minds of our customers, not in the fancy reports or infographics.

I encourage marketers to make this effort and talk directly to their customers. You will be surprised how many crucial topics have never been discussed during sales conversations and how valuable the insights are for your professional and personal development.

If you’re the kind of person who would also rather focus on improving your skills in 2018, you should definitely visit our Academy site where you’ll find much knowledge arranged in handy e-books. Stay up-to-date with our blog or the blogs, podcasts, and webinars created by those we truly admire.

You have another, easier option (let’s not make things unnecessarily complicated😊): subscribe to our newsletter, and—every week—we’ll deliver our best content along with a list of all the interesting pieces we’ve read someplace else straight to your inbox.