One question I’m often asked is what skills and competencies are required in Communications. After building such teams for three decades, my conclusion is that the answer depends on who is asking the question.
I’ll share my thoughts over two parts. This one primarily addresses Communications practitioners.
My answer to them starts with “acquire a solid set of skills and qualities which are constantly being refined, built up and refreshed.”
Skills and competencies which are highly valued include:
- Knowledgeable. Stay updated on industry developments, including trends and innovation, understanding the business, asking thoughtful questions. Being well read means reading a broad range of materials that represent all different viewpoints and perspectives of diverse stakeholders.
- Strategic thinking and problem solving. In an age where information (& disinformation) is freely and abundant available, great communicators need to think clearly and exercise judgment. Whether it’s identifying solutions to issues or simply applying different approaches to a media pitch – a solutions-oriented mindset is required.
- Influencing. It would be tragic to have fantastic strategy without the means to deliver. All communicators must master higher order writing and verbal skills. This allows their work to resonate with specific audiences they interface with. A highly effective practitioner will create the right impact through their writing or verbal communications.
- Networks. Nurture mutually beneficial relationships with a range of audience or stakeholder groups. For instance, we can distribute press information using technology without actually having to interact with journalists. Still nothing beats knowing them and helping them write higher quality, well informed and on message stories.
- Channel experts – you must be familiar how diverse communications channels work. Can you work with multiple communications opportunities and vehicles to engage your target audiences? There are now so manychannels - blogs, social media platforms, apps, Web, and more added daily. What’s most important is understanding which channels can be used most effectively to meet diverse goals.
- Own your business – whether you’re with an agency or working in-house, it is vital to have a deep understanding of your company’s or your client’s business. This allows you to provide sound advice and be truly effective. What are the pain points and what keeps your client up at night related to work? What are the solutions you can offer? In order words, treat it like you’re the business owner.
A global Chief Communications Officer of a Fortune 500 company shared that she still writes a few press releases annually even though that’s not in her job description. It is clear that she does this to keep her skills sharp! No matter how far we are in our careers we can all follow her good example.
Above all to be successful, a passion for your work coupled with a great sense of curiosity and a willingness to take on any task, no matter how small, will also go a long way for Communications professionals in their career journey.
- Eric Lee, Principal Consultant