Most public relations professionals are writers by trade, but in the increasingly digital world, graphic design has become a relevant and useful skill. You need to have an eye for what photos and visuals are engaging enough to draw people toward your content, and PR pros can benefit from knowing how to develop and design those visuals.
These three design skills have become most relevant in PR:
Basic photo editing
Any photo going along with a press release or being posted on social media needs to look nice and be eye-catching. Now I’m not saying that you need to be a Photoshop master who can make objects in photos disappear or drop someone’s waist three sizes.
However, you should know how to perform the fundamental edits that a photo might need, such as cropping, changing contrast and exposure levels and fixing red eye. Sizing matters especially if you use any social media management platforms because they often have size and ratio requirements when posting automatically on your behalf.
These are all very simple changes that can be made in any photo editing software or platform. My favorite is Adobe Photoshop, but if that’s too intimidating for you (or frankly too much of an investment), there are more user-friendly options, like Pixlr. It has very similar editing functions but skips some of the more in-depth, professional features. Even the most basic edits can make a huge difference in photo quality – all the better to attract some media attention.
Social icon creation
Along the same lines, you’ll need visuals to produce compelling social media posts. A newer way to do that, especially for marketing purposes, is to create cute and fun social graphics using icons and cartoons for a more whimsical, playful appeal.
Most professionals would recommend Adobe Illustrator as the go-to tool for creating graphics, but there are plenty of more user-friendly and free options – my favorite being Canva, which has built-in icons, images, fonts and background patterns to create quick social media squares. Many, such as Piktochart, also offer other layout options, like slideshows, infographics and more. You need to have an eye for what photos and visuals are engaging enough to draw people toward your content, and PR pros can benefit from knowing how to develop and design those visuals.
You need to have an eye for what photos and visuals are engaging enough to draw people toward your content, and PR pros can benefit from knowing how to develop and design those visuals.
The ability to build a PDF is useful for marketing materials, such as white papers, one-sheets and analytics reports. Although much of PR is media relations-centered, many firms will also provide other marketing services like these to offer a more comprehensive marketing suite to their clients. So not only do you need to know how to write them, but also how to lay them out and construct an appealing, branded composition.
Additionally, with PR being almost purely a digital pursuit these days, many of your clients’ news hits will be hosted online on a publication’s website. And although they say “everything stays online,” many publications will purge or archive pages after too many years, meaning there needs to be a way to keep a running portfolio of hits to be hosted offline.
If you wanted to archive articles in a practical and meaningful way for a client I suggest using InDesign. Probably the simplest of the Adobe Creative Suite, you can easily lay out the copy and images from an article, along with the client’s logo, to create a branded document for marketing and sales purposes. Sometimes called a “leave-behind,” it’s something easy for you to “leave behind” after a great conversation with a potential client or investor. So being able to make these is a huge advantage.
Most PR and marketing agencies are widening their scopes of service to accommodate the breadth of digital inbound and outbound marketing that has come along. With that, you’ll need to widen your array of skills as well, starting with some of these simple graphic design abilities. Your work will be looking 22nd century in no time.