Saturday 10 December 2016

Friday Five: Skills Digital Hopefuls Should Learn

Why It Matters by Tiffany Stanley

There is an influx of young people who are now entering the PR workforce through the digital sector rather than into traditional communications roles. This shift is happening because these young people are “digital natives” and have grown up with social media. However, this natural use of social media doesn’t mean aspiring digitals are necessarily prepared for a digital position. People entering digital roles come from a variety of educational backgrounds with differing experiences. Here are five skills I think every aspiring digital should learn before trying to land a job.

1. Writing for Digital

By the end of college, most students mistakenly call themselves writing pros simply based on how many papers they’ve written. In communications classes, we’re taught to write press releases, while in others we’re instructed to write detailed 15-20 page papers. In the digital world, the importance of brevity goes completely by the wayside. Tell a recent grad to take his or her thesis idea and condense it into 100 characters. Digital hopefuls need to be able to make their points brief and engaging. Write like you speak, then go back and edit like you’re being charged per word.

2. Creative

It’s in your best interest to learn a bit of the creative side – what an edge it gives you if you know Adobe Creative Suite and have some design skills! If your university or a local college offers graphic design, take a class– it will go a long way. If not, Adobe offers a great student discount on its  products and there are plenty of tutorials on YouTube to learn from. If you’re not a student or the full Creative Suite is just too expensive, at least try your hands with some video editing software. Most Macs come with iMovie or you can download Windows Movie Maker for free. Another option is to use an online free software tool like One True Media that allows for video storage and editing. With multimedia content being the most engaging on social media platforms, knowing your way around creating a good video or editing a photo is very valuable.

3. Monitoring Analytics

Social media monitoring and analytics are a huge part of what entry-level digital professionals do. Learning a program such as Radian6 or Sysymos, and knowing how to analyze what you’re looking at, is extremely helpful in being successful in your early career. If you don’t have access to these programs, look at free online monitoring sites such as Topsy and Howsociable to get a basic grasp. Knowing how to extract data from social media monitoring sites and being able to determine what the data means is something every aspiring digital should be able to do.

4. Coding

Although most digital folks won’t be doing the actual coding themselves, having basic knowledge of how a website is made and works through coding is essential to understanding the bigger picture and process in digital activations. Knowing how to read basic HTML code is a great start to understanding the front end of a website, making you a valuable asset to your team.

5. SEM SEO

Most people don’t know right from left when it comes to SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and SEM (Search Engine Marketing). Understanding these concepts can go a long way toward making you a more strategic thinker in the digital arena. Knowledge of what makes a page more SEO friendly can be very intuitive, and is, in a basic sense, easy to learn. Take the time to try implementing it yourself. If you have a website and/or a blog, see what you can do to get your owned property higher on a search list using SEO/SEM tactics. Doing this could also help you get that interview if it’s your personal website.

So, aspiring digital professionals – don’t just get with the program, get in front of it. As Aristotle said, “What we have to learn to do, we learn by doing,” so find a way to get some experience in before you try to enter the digital realm. Professors, perhaps it’s time to reevaluate the traditional methods that are being taught and try to create a balance that includes what’s necessary in the digital world. What do you think are the essential skills needed to start in digital that seem to be missing in most candidates?

Computer code image courtesy BigStock.

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