Need to hire a PR pro for your startup? Here’s how to do it right.

By Rebekah Iliff (Chief Strategy Officer, AirPR)

Set your PR stereotypes aside, folks. PR is no longer just about rubbing elbows with reporters and sending out press releases on wires. Learn what skills and qualities are most important to look for in the PR professionals of today.

What Today’s Most Promising PR Candidates Know

Data literacy is Key

Many of us may have been drawn to PR initially because it’s an industry where strong communicators can excel, but mingling with the media and writing well are no longer the only key skills. Today’s PR pros must demonstrate an understanding of data and have a desire to embrace a more programmatic, data-focused approach to optimization and outcomes. Once your PR pro has data, the next step is understanding how to filter and organize it into actionable insights.

Press releases must be approached differently

Despite the rumors, press releases are not dead — they’re just evolving. If a PR person says that press releases are six feet under that is a giant red flag. What is dead is writing general press releases. The real focus should be on the crafting of highly concentrated and targeted releases tailored to the audience you’re writing for. Releases should also have explicit CTA’s, click through tweets, and engaging multi media opportunities. Press releases with multimedia get 3x the coverage rate!

Content Marketing is key to any successful PR strategy

Storytelling is at the heart of every great content marketer, but truly successful PR pros approach storytelling by tapping both strategic insight AND creative thought. Be confident that your PR pro can create compelling content that leads your customers through a unique and memorable experience. From developing social media strategies and establishing fruitful syndication partnerships, to blogging in a way that boomerangs back to business objectives, your PR person needs to understand how all pieces of the content marketing web fit together.

Qualitative and quantitative data create a full circle for success

The new generation of PR pros take into account both the qualitative and quantitative data. Decisions are not simply based on a quantitative source. The qualitative source — influence, sentiment, strategy, and creative content — is just as important as the insights companies derive from quantitative data.

  • Quantitative (back-end) data gives us fundamental truths.
  • But qualitative (front-end) data brings those truths to life and gives us digestible action items.

Studying and sharing industry trends are an everyday part of the job

Tracking competitor success, knowing which brands are killing it with content creation, and discovering industry trends that can influence and inform your PR strategy are ongoing tasks of the trade. Whether it’s by participating in relevant conversations, sharing articles chock-full of news, or just having a passion for staying in the know, your PR pro must have a system for staying informed. They should also share these insights with their greater team frequently. Remember, PR people know media more than anyone in the company, so it’s their job to see, share, and provide context.

Establishing relationships through new media is essential

Ten years ago, connecting with a reporter you’ve never met was a challenge. Today, 82 percent of the world’s online population can be reached via social networks. There’s no excuse for not being able to engage directly with those you want to pitch.

Social selling evangelist Jill Rowley thinks, “To be interesting, you need to be interested.” Your PR person must know how to engage and connect in person and online. Favoriting tweets here and there won’t work. Ongoing, thoughtful dialogue around issues that are relevant to your business will.

Passion is what makes it all worthwhile

PR is a tireless, never ending — yet ultimately rewarding — gig. When PR pros put in long hours and rarely leave home without their laptops, it’s the passion for the products and businesses that drive this level of commitment. Seek a PR pro with a shared a passion for the problem you’re trying to solve and then work together to build something of substance.

This post originally appeared on Medium

Have you hired PR for your startup? What advice do you have for other founders?