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Four Key Skills Every Marketer Needs in 2017

By Hilary McCarthy

It’s the new year – time to take inventory! And assessing marketing roles and skills to meet goals in 2017, for both individuals and companies, is no exception.

Openings for marketing and public relations managers in Massachusetts are expected to be high, and demand will continue to grow at 6.8 and 6.9 percent respectively (above a 5.7 percent standard for all occupations), says the Massachusetts Career Information System. But competition will also be strong.

The top PR trends fueling demand for skills include “not dot” (or new domain extensions beyond the traditional dotcom), executive thought leadership, and influencer and contributor marketing, says PR technology company CIsion. And Marketing Insider Group says that HTML, marketing automation and data analysis are in demand.

Meanwhile, Linkedin ranks SEO/SEM marketing as number 9 in its 10 hottest, most in-demand skills for all professionals across the board. But, as the only marketing skill to make LinkedIn’s survey this year, it dropped five spots from 2016, and “marketing campaign management” fell off the list.

How can marketers and PR professionals stay competitive given the constant change in their professions? PDC reached out to leading area marketers and business owners for feedback on skills they’re looking for in 2017. Here are the four skills they say are most critical.


  • You Can’t Better What You Can’t Measure

“Strong skills in the area of web analytics are a must,” says Hans Riemer, president of Groton, Mass.-based Market Vantage, LLC, an Internet marketing firm. “Basically, we’re finding that the demand for technical skills in analytics services has increased significantly over the past year or two.”

Christine Perkett, CEO and founder of analytics platform SeeDepth Inc. in Marshfield, agrees. “Data analysis is one of the most important skills for today’s savvy PR pro. Insightful measurement is in demand, and that requires the ability to not only gather the right data, but to analyze it to determine what’s working and what isn’t.”


  • The Pen Still Rules

The timeless capability to write well may be just as critical.

“Writing remains a crucial skill for PR pros,” says Perkett. “Although many folks thought it might go by the wayside as short social media updates began to dominate, it’s actually more important than ever. With the PR role spanning the creation of content across more channels, as well as many contributed pieces of media, the ability to clearly and succinctly communicate with words is a high priority.”

Maureen O’Grady Condon, principal of Precision Marketing Group LLC in Framingham, agrees.

“So much of marketing is about positioning a recommendation, sharing results and setting expectations that it is important for our team to be adept at communicating with clarity, confidence and context.”


  • WIIFM?

Five little letters, “What’s In It for me?” – or understanding the relevance to the customer – rules, according to Steve Schuster, CEO of Rainier Communications, a tech and media outreach firm in Westborough.

“Journalists are just like everyone else: They buy things – stories, in this case – for emotionally compelling reasons. Consequently, I look for marketing and PR practitioners whose skills all rest upon a keen strategic instinct for relevance… a marketing pro who successfully reads the zeitgeist, the meta-trends in the media and the market, and then connects the thing they are marketing to those prevailing winds of relevance, will have successfully made the market case about the story they are telling. This frequently requires a seasoned professional whose experience renders a potent blend of big-picture perspective and bold willingness to connect the dots in the most highly creative ways.”


  • Don’t Forget the Big Picture

“We are always seeking team members who take a strategic approach to their work and not just take orders or do for the sake of doing,” O’Grady Condon says regarding another critical marketing “must.”

“We love team members who are not afraid to bring a new idea to the table, who stay up on new trends and tools and share their thoughts on them, and who push back when they think a direction we are taking may not be the best one. We always say we want people who use their brains!”

With marketing and PR continually evolving, and no shortage of new tactics to learn, area experts confirm: a firm grasp of the essentials is still necessary to excel at emerging skill sets.


Hilary McCarthy is a PR and marketing consultant, content strategist and writer for business and technology companies. She can be reached at




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