The thing a lot of folks overlook about digital public relations is that core skills like strategically utilizing social media, writing for search engine optimization and directing metrics-driven Web strategy aren’t usually sharpened from 9 to 5.

Digital flacks do most of their research and development at home and for themselves. They blog,write columns, speak on/host panels and plan happy hours. They TwitterBuzz and Facebook. They read countless articles, surf Mashable and attend conferences. All on personal time. I’m not talking about “social media gurus.” These people are traditional PR pros, but with the added bonus of a highly sought-after, enhanced digital skill set.

Because digital flacks rarely leave the practice bubble of the all-seeing, insanely reactive, Very Public Internet, they are getting more PR practice than you. As a result, they may possess a greater understanding of crisis communications strategy; they receive public accolades and enhanced credibility, and are often a client’s one-stop resource in today’s increasingly tech-centric PR profession.

Like any talent, if you want to be the best, you must work at it. Constantly.  Malcolm Gladwell says you’ll need about 10,000 hours of practice to become stellar at your craft; Seth Godin isn’t so sure its the hours that set you apart as much as your willingness to stick it out when others bail.

The Internet allows the savvy PR pro to get relevant practice anytime, day or night. Nearly every minute a geeky flack spends online is applicable to their public relations career. You may both be watching Glee or old episodes of The Office, but the digital flack is wracking up PR practice hours by micro-blogging about it real-time.

Proof of your technical expertise is what separates the run-of-the-mill-social-media-lover (God save us) from the results-producing digital PR practitioner. Practice makes knowledgeable, and often, award-winning. But it doesn’t happen by osmosis. Are you up for the time commitment?

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