At the start of the year we recorded significant growth in the number of clients requesting PR professionals with experience of social media channels, such as Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and blogging, yet only 6% of PR candidates had the relevant experience / skills to sate such requirements. However, it would appear that candidates are reacting quickly to market changes and seem to be getting to grips with this new medium. So what is the catalyst for this sudden surge and how will traditional PR agencies harness these new communication channels? The numbers Back in January of this year we took a two year sample of registered PR candidates and found that just 6% of them referenced social media in their CVs. However, analysis of registered candidates, from January 2010, shows that this figure has risen to 17%.This analysis is further bolstered when noting that 21% of candidates had digital campaign experience. Sister companies The driving force behind this rise in candidates acquiring social media skills and experience begins with the agencies themselves. Leading traditional PR agencies are starting up sister companies designed to specialise solely in digital campaigns, Eulogy!鈥檚 Onlinefire is just one example. Charley Hayes, social media strategist at Onlinefire says: 鈥淪 ocial media has changed the way in which we practise PR and has enhanced the discipline in a plethora of ways. When we started off down this path a few years ago, social media suddenly provided a number of unique ways to get messages across. Besides opportunity, it also brought immense challenges for brands that weren 鈥檛 used to bypassing traditional gatekeepers and having a conversation directly with their audience.鈥? In-house training The two way dialogue between brands and their stakeholders has forced businesses to interact and develop relationships with their customers on a more intimate level. This has also lead to other established houses investing in training schemes for their current staff as well as requesting that any new candidates should already have an aptitude for social media. These figures, and industry developments, are a clear indication that as social media and digital booms so do candidate skill sets. Paired with agencies capitalising on the two way dialogue between brands and their stakeholders, it spells a brighter future for PR 鈥檚 sustainability as we leave the downturn. New to the industry? If you 鈥檙 e new to the industry and you're looking to land your first PR role then I 鈥檇 suggest taking part in work experience programs - try to go to different agencies to gain a broader perspective, getting as much exposure as possible . Target agencies that have a strong focus to their digital PR strategies to really develop yourself fully. Onlinefire insists that it 鈥檚 all about keeping your finger on the pulse and getting actively involved 鈥淵 ou should be reading sites like Mashable and TechCrunch to get your tech and social media news as well as traditional channels. But most importantly you need to get involved, try stuff out and form your own opinion on what works.鈥? Old-school PR pros If you 鈥檝 e been in the game for a few years then we suggest really investing in your training. Get yourself skilled up as there are lots of social media training courses available online as well as forums and events and as we 鈥檝 e mentioned, many companies are introducing their own social media training programs. With new graduates and fresh junior account executives making the market even more competitive, it 鈥 檚 imperative that you take action in order to stay ahead and meet the demands of the agencies. If you 鈥檙 e a PR pro looking to climb the ladder in the world of digital then get in touch for the latest PR jobs.