A PR practitioner smiling at workplace
A PR practitioner smiling at workplace

6 Essential Communication Skills for Public Relations


Australia's vibrant media landscape presents an exciting arena for public relations (PR) professionals. Navigating a career in PR hinges on understanding how communications can amplify an organisation's brand narrative and its engagement with audiences.

But in a landscape where communication channels are evolving quickly, what communication skills do PR professionals need to pay attention to?

Below, we’ll look at the relationship between PR and communications, as well as six major communication skills that every PR professional needs today.

What’s the difference between PR and communications?

While they share some commonalities, public relations and communications are separate disciplines.

PR practitioners are primarily responsible for building, maintaining and managing a positive reputation for their clients. They use diverse communication channels, focusing on external audiences like the media and the general public.

While public relations always involves communications, communications doesn’t always involve public relations. Corporate communications roles generally have a broader focus, encompassing internal and external communications management – from employee and customer messaging to marketing and advertising campaigns and media relations.

If you want to pursue a career in public relations, developing your communication abilities is crucial to succeed as a PR professional. It will help create value and drive change for your career and organisation.

Top 6 communication skills for public relations

PR professionals must possess a range of essential communication skills to excel in their field. These indispensable skills include:

  • Strategic thinking
  • Research
  • Writing
  • Social and digital media
  • Organisation
  • Creativity

Let’s look at each of these in more detail below.

Strategic thinking

Successful public relations employees take a strategic approach when tackling public relations communications.

Whether developing proactive PR campaigns, tweaking brand positioning or managing crisis communications, their understanding of audiences, stakeholders and trends allows them to create and execute effective communications that cut through.

Strategic thinking means thinking more broadly than the target audience, communication channels and output. It involves evaluating sector and community-wide trends, analysing a broad spectrum of data, and assessing the proposed PR campaign against a client’s goals. Their question is: “How do we want people to think, feel and react in response to these PR efforts?”

Strategic thinking in public relations often happens under intense time pressure. For this reason, the ability to get across a client’s brand, challenges, opportunities and operating environment quickly is essential. The best firms can think on their feet, pitch solutions and execute PR campaigns that achieve client objectives quickly and with confidence.


An ability to conduct fast and accurate research is a must-have for a successful public relations career.

A PR employee who’s confident using various formal and informal sources to draw insights and present their findings in a meaningful way will be able to gain client buy-in to their strategy and tailor campaign messages and communication channels accordingly.


Storytelling is at the heart of PR, so the ability to craft captivating content that resonates with the target audience is crucial.

Today, public relations companies must be adept at writing cut-through content for an incredibly diverse range of paid and unpaid communications channels, including:

  • Social media platforms
  • Email
  • Blogs
  • Websites
  • Radio and TV
  • Print
  • Paid advertising channels
  • Media briefings
  • Press releases
  • Events
  • Speeches
  • Interviews

Public relations writing skills go beyond a good grasp of grammar and strong attention to detail. PR pros are adept at tailoring their approach to reflect the nuances of each communication channel – from the brevity required for digital PR to the right way to approach tricky crisis communications.

Of course, before considering messages, communication channels and approaches, a PR firm must win over a potential client. To do so, they’ll need to deliver a compelling, persuasive and well-written pitch that convinces the client they’re the right public relations company for the job.

Social and digital media

Social and digital media has revolutionised communication in public relations. Today, PR firms are expected to seamlessly integrate social media into their client’s communication strategies to drive home key messages, amplify campaign reach, nurture relationships, respond to media coverage and manage crises.

Compared with traditional public relations communication channels such as print media, social and digital media channels are dynamic, supporting the sharing of key messages – and tracking target audience responses – in real time. Social media platforms allow PR professionals to instantly share messages with a global audience using imagery, videos and infographics to engage and build relationships.

A key aspect of using social media platforms effectively is understanding which channels are the right fit for a client. Each platform has unique user demographics, so it’s vital to focus on the social media platforms that fit the client’s brand image and are used by their target audiences.

In 2024, the most popular social media platforms in Australia are:

  • Facebook
  • WhatsApp
  • YouTube
  • Instagram
  • TikTok

Understanding the fundamental differences between these platforms allows public relations practitioners to create targeted digital content to reach the target audience and build brand awareness.


In the fast-paced PR environment, employees are expected to multitask and manage their time to work on multiple projects simultaneously.

Outstanding ideas are only of value once they’re developed and executed, so it’s essential that you’re comfortable working across different projects and clients – sometimes at a moment’s notice. Deadlines are often aggressive and can change unexpectedly due to internal and external factors. A client’s priorities may evolve due to a change in strategy, a shift in competitor activity, negative media coverage, or fluctuations in community sentiment.


Creative thinking is critical to success in public relations. In a crowded marketplace, PR firms must be able to develop imaginative and original ideas that can be translated into effective, multi-channel communication strategies that get their clients noticed. From brainstorming and concept development to channel selection and campaign execution, the ability to develop creative ideas is invaluable in the PR arena.

Clients are hungry for fresh ideas, so the ability to think outside the box to identify new ways to communicate a brand’s message will always win pitches. At the PR campaign execution stage, originality allows a brand or organisation to engage with existing audiences in new ways, share key messaging with new audiences and drive overall engagement.

In 2024, the diversity of communication channels available is both an opportunity and a challenge for public relations practitioners. Creativity will empower them to create campaigns that meet client briefs and can be leveraged across traditional and digital communication channels.

How can I improve my communication skills for public relations?

As the way we communicate evolves at breakneck speed, public relations and communications professionals must constantly build their skills to stay current.

A commitment to continuous learning is a must for everyone – from new public relations graduates to experienced and respected PR gurus.

Here are practical ways you can strengthen your skills.

Stay current with industry trends

Attend events regularly and stay up to date with trade publications and websites to keep your finger on the pulse of what’s happening within the public relations realm and the sectors your PR firm serves.

Build your networks

Look for opportunities to expand your personal and professional networks. Attend events – and say yes to speaking at them if asked – to boost your profile and build mutually beneficial relationships with like-minded individuals and groups.

Invest in professional development

Gaining formalised skills can significantly expand your career opportunities as well as help you stand out to employers.

If you’re looking for a comprehensive qualification that will enhance your skills and resume, consider a postgraduate degree like a Master of Communication. You may also prefer a quick upskill with our Graduate Diploma or Graduate Certificate.

Sharpen your storytelling skills

A skilled PR practitioner has the ability to capture people’s imagination by identifying and telling engaging stories that make even the mundane sound interesting. Watch how the experts you admire share their messaging, then practice, practice, practice!

Build communication skills for your PR career and beyond with ECU Online

ECU Online’s Master of Communication teaches learners how to harness the power of communication to drive transformation and business success.

Studying online, you’ll develop technical and strategic communication skills that enable you to design and implement solutions that address organisational challenges while prioritising the needs and perspectives of individuals and stakeholders.

With a focus on real-world applications and hands-on experience, the ECU Online Master of Communication equips learners with future-proof communication skills to innovate, influence and lead communication in their public relations companies.

  • Designed by industry leaders: Course content is developed by academics and industry experts who are highly engaged with and respected within the field of communication.
  • Future-focused learning: You’ll learn techniques and strategies to apply social responsibility, inclusive communication, creativity and business communication principles to gain a competitive edge.
  • Flexible online delivery: Fit your study to your schedule with our 100% online, accelerated Master of Communication. You’ll focus on one unit at a time over each seven-week study period and graduate sooner compared to traditional part-time study options.
  • Top teaching quality: ECU Online has been ranked five stars by the Good Universities Guide for teaching quality for 15 consecutive years. We’re the only public university in Australia to have achieved such a consistently high endorsement.
  • Fast-track your study: Six study periods each year mean you could complete your ECU Online’s Master of Communication in as little as two years. If you have a relevant qualification or at least five years of relevant professional experience, you can fast-track your master’s degree and complete it in only 18 months part-time.

Develop communication skills that will propel your success in various industries and roles with ECU Online's Master of Communication.

Speak to one of our dedicated Student Enrolment Advisors on 1300 707 760, or email future.student@studyonline.ecu.edu.au for more information.