13 Tips To Sharpen Your Communication Skills in 2013

There is a distinct buzz in the air during the final quarter of the year. In the PR community, this growing sound is our nagging reminder to sit down and think about new business, budgets, cuts and strategies for 2013.

We’re no different, so our team looked at our own best practices to empower you with 13 tips to make you a better communicator in 2013.

13. Commit to commenting. Stop being a social media voyeur. Be active by liking and commenting on posts you read. The comments can be as interesting as the posts; many people read them and they’re a good way to make connections.

12. Give before you ask. No matter what service you provide, even the well-intentioned invitation can be seen as a demand for time, effort, and attention. Take this tip from Chris Sacca, advisor to some of the top social media companies, ”If you’re insightful and helpful, people will want to be around you.”

11. Refine your elevator pitch. How? Practice, edit, repeat. If you pitch TV stations you know assignment editors are willing to listen, but you’d better be able to get your point across fast! Call five assignment desks, and chances are, you’ll hone your pitch quickly.

10. Subscribe to industry newsletters and READ THEM. PR/communications newsletters such as CommPRO.Biz, MediaBistro, Smart Brief on Social Media and Ragan’s PR Daily offer helpful suggestions for improving your written and verbal communication skills and keep you up on industry trends. You might recognize a misstep you consistently make, such as avoiding an overused word.

9. Get involved with an industry organization. Don’t just attend events – join a committee, serve on the board, or simply volunteer your time as you can. Be sure not to limit yourself to PR/IR groups.

8. Learn more about the offerings of your service providers. OK, this one may be a bit self-serving, but don’t shoot the messenger. Many PR-related service providers are constantly advancing their catalog of offerings, providing free reporting, or creating complementary products to go along with the services they’re most known for. Take the meeting and find out what else they offer for you to maximize your relationship.

7. Have an SEO discussion with your web team, your wire vendors and your content creators. If one conversation isn’t enough, have however many it takes for you to understand search engine optimization (SEO) basics and start using these strategies to improve the visibility of content you produce for the web.

6. Take a class or seminar. Many schools and professional societies offer continuing education classes at a low cost, and some even offer free sessions. Consider classes in photography, advanced web technology or web design. You can even brush up with a business writing or grammar class.

5. Attend a journalism conference. The price tag of some PR conferences can be off-putting. Directly across the aisle our industry peers are putting together great and pertinent programming at a fraction of the cost. Check out conferences organized by the Online News Association, Society of Professional Journalists or one of the journalists-of-color member organizations like NABJ, the National Association of Black Journalists. You’ll learn a lot and make some new contacts while you are at it.

4. Share your experiences. If you have no time to sit on a board or a committee, offer to speak at one of their programs on a topic you know matches the interests of their members. In PR groups, speakers on the topics of social media, measurement, crisis communications, media relations and brand strategy are highly sought after!

3. Invite a blogger out for coffee. If you don’t work with bloggers, meet up with an editor, producer or member of the Twitteratti who you value having a relationship with. Even if they can’t meet face to face, the check-in email is a nice gesture and way to keep a relationship top of mind even if you’ve moved on to cover new areas.

2. Be an active listener. Multi-tasking, while great in so many ways, contributes immensely to our eclipsed attention spans. Make an effort to listen more closely. Practice by playing a prerecorded webinar and not clicking away; or watching or listening to an on-air personality you don’t agree with and resisting the urge to turn away or blurt out. Just listen. If you improve your listening skills you might pick up the other half of what most people don’t hear when someone is speaking.

1. Immerse yourself in mobile. Mobile marketing is the future, but the future is today. To leverage this market for you and your clients you need to use it. Download news apps and visit the mobile rendered pages of your favorite brands. Then make sure your own messaging is mobile friendly.

By Raschanda Hall, Global Media Relations Manager, Business Wire/Chicago
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