Comms Pros: Top Four Skills You Need to Get Hired in Silicon Valley

Judgment, Consensus-Building Skills More Valuable Than PR Degrees Say Valley’s Communications Leaders

Finding ‘good people’ was the dominant discussion topic at this week’s Brunswick-sponsored PRSA Silicon Valley Senior PR Leaders dinner.

As recently reported in PRWeek’s 2012 Careers Guide, Silicon Valley is experiencing a PR hiring boom with a growing junior talent pool. Chuck Byers, brand and communications professor at Santa Clara University told attendees last night that the college’s communications courses are oversubscribed.

Despite this positive trend,  heads of communications from Applied Materials, Solar City, Apple, Cisco, SanDisk, NetApp, Visa and the City of San Jose collectively lamented that few candidates have the skills required.

“The industry used to talk about wanting a ‘seat at the table’ and Silicon Valley leaders are there.” said Vanessa Yanez, president, PRSA Silicon Valley. “The world of paid, shared and owned now sit alongside the traditional earned media realm here.  Based on the many SV leaders we met over the past few hours, the communications success bar is high and it will go up as company brand influencer communities and communications tools evolve.”

So what exactly are the Valley’s PR leaders looking for? Here’s are four tips from last night’s discussion:

  1. Write persuasively, effectively and with versatility: Take a journalism class, they say. Know how to construct a complete persuasive story in every context: Internal meetings, announcements, presentations. You also need to know social, headlines and lead paragraphs too, of course.  The whole story matters more than ever.
  2. Be curious: Research your company. Ask thoughtful questions. A deep business understanding is required. Think business first, and a communications professional second. Do you understand the business? Do you know what its goals are? If you don’t, ask questions based on what you know.
  3. Use good judgment: How does a college student develop the skills and judgment needed to know what to do in a crisis situation? Work in a restaurant or a call center and handle unhappy customers, say the Valley’s leaders. With the elevation of our profession, the ability to build consensus and manage conflict are more valuable than any academic qualification. Broaden your horizons!
  4. Learn about and appreciate complementary communications functions: In an age of instant, transparent and fluid communications, the distinction between external, internal, executive communications, advertising and marketing lines are blurring. “We expect internal memos to leak in minutes” said one leader. “The integration of all communications disciplines has become a prerequisite in our organization. Any silos are purely artificial.

Motivated? Confused? If you’re a communications or public relations up-and-comer and you’d like to get more first-hand advice on the skills sought after by Silicon Valley’s PR leaders, then contact Mar Junge, mentorship chair, PRSA Silicon Valley or contact us your local PRSA Silicon Valley Chapter.


David McCulloch
President-Elect, PRSA Silicon Valley
Director, Corporate Communications
Cisco Systems Inc.

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