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With the demand for public relations specialists increasing by 12 percent through 2020, reports the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, you’re moving into a growing field. To stand out in your chosen profession, there are skills you can work on outside of your college classes that will distinguish you from your peers. Review these suggestions to find your strengths and weaknesses, and build up your reputation as a PR professional even before you graduate.

A Mixture of Skills

The top PR professionals excel in skills that fall into two categories – human and professional. Human skill covers areas such as communications and rapport. Professional skills include writing and public speaking. Mastering skills in these two areas sets you apart from other students because you may have to reach outside of your college program to work on them. Pick some areas where you feel the weakest and enhance your skills with online classes or even an internship.

Many classes that are helpful to you in your public relations career can be found online. Websites such as CollegeOnline help you find public relations courses at various colleges and universities to supplement your current college program. You’ll find courses that help you refine your professionalism in writing and public speaking when working with people.

Writing and Editing

While you’ll attend classes on writing in college, your job will require you to be able to craft good emails, press releases, brochure content and social media posts, notes the Small Business Chronicle. These tasks require a unique perspective to execute them correctly. You will have clients that struggle with many of these writing tasks and want your help. Becoming known for your writing skills will put you in demand by your company and clients. Online courses in writing for these specific areas usually allow you to work at your own pace.

Non-Verbal Communication

People communicate in a variety of ways, and of course, the spoken word is just one. Understanding the various ways in which people communicate will help you when working with clients. Body language, facial expressions, and voice intonation all convey important information. Classes in non-verbal communication teach you how to be an excellent listener so you are aware of the real messages being delivered. You can even develop skills when talking on the phone that help you pick up non-verbal clues. Having this level of communication skills makes you a valuable PR resource in any company.

Corporate Communications

Learning how to communicate with executives is another powerful skill for a PR person, says Blast Media. Some of these skills are taught in masters programs, but you can find similar courses online or even audit post-grad courses. Communicating well with C-level executives takes skill and understanding that may not be taught in your undergraduate courses. However, it’s a skill that if you master, will put you in demand many places.

Leadership Skills

You may find yourself in charge of a team of graphics designers, content writers, editors and technicians. Having good leadership skills prepares you for those situations. Knowing how to motivate people, evaluate progress and mitigate issues are important skills to have for your own career advancement. Online classes may give you some foundational leadership skills. Getting involved in an internship that gives you hands on experience will only add gold to your resume.

Research Skills

In your PR role, you’ll get involved with many information-gathering tools such as surveys, interviews, and focus groups. Not only will you be creating these, but you’ll interpret the data for your clients. You’ll need good research skills to take this information and create PR campaigns or project proposals. Classes on Internet research and the collection or usage of consumer data give you the background to tackle those projects. You may also find internship opportunities working for a consumer survey group, to learn the best ways to get good feedback from people.

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