"One of the most important skills that PR professionals need today, and I think this is true across all of communications and marketing, is really to understand the business of business and be able to translate or contextualize communications jargon and language into the language of business," Red Havas executive vice president Linda Descano tells Doug Simon.

"You really can't understand a client's industry if you don't have basic business acumen," Descano says. "And that means really being able to understand how to read basic financial statements, how to listen to and analyze an earnings report, how to read an annual report."

It also means having a clear picture of the all the factors your clients face in their business operations—from how they make money to who their competitors are to the political and regulatory dynamics they operate in. "Really understanding all of the business parameters helps you create opportunities that are going to move the business forward and really help show the value that communications can bring both from a top line and a bottom line perspective," she tells Simon.

These factors, Descano says, apply to any organization, whether it's a startup, a large established company, or a nonprofit. "You have to understand where your client is, who is investing, who owns them, and then what are their goals."

To acquire the kind of savvy needed to deal with a client's business issues, Descano says that an MBA is not a must-have. "There are so many options," she says, from SEC how-to-read resources "that can take you through how to read an annual report on Form 10-K" to the Business Insights blog from Harvard University online and such sources as Investopedia and Ragan Communications.

"Then it's really just investing the time to read the earnings report, listen to the earnings call, watch interviews with the CEO of the publicly traded company and how they talk about the earnings. And over time, you'll just get familiar with the lexicon."

She also stresses that communicators need to think about the "changing reality" created by a range of business, social and business factors. Successfully negotiating the current environment, she says, requires "thinking about how with any communications initiative, can you not only reach customers, but, you know, create an impact for communities, for employees and really create that surround sound. So with every dollar of investment you're amplifying and helping that company break through in a meaningful way."

View all of the interviews in the “PR's Top Pros Talk” series. Subscribe to get notified when new episodes are available.

Interested in taking part? Contact Doug Simon at [email protected]

D S Simon Media helps clients get their stories on television through satellite media tours and by producing and distributing content to the media. The company also produces live social media events.