To Stay Relevant How Do Communications Professionals Need To Evolve?

Posted on September 15, 2010


What Are Your Career Plans?

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Foreword to 4/4/4 Four Communications Issues. Four Perspectives. Four Weeks. Blog Series

This is part 2 of 4 of this series that I am writing with Todd Defren, Lou Hoffman, and Paul Roberts. Do we agree? Maybe, maybe not. You can read Todd’s Here, Lou’s Here, and Paul’s Here.

For some great additional perspectives on this topic I encourage you to visit Hans de Groot, and Don Jennings.

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To Stay Relevant How Do Communications Professionals Need To Evolve?

By Steve Farnsworth (@Steveology)

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If you want to evolve you need to kill PR. Why? Because there is too much head trash about what public relations means. I think it is unrealistic to expect that others outside the profession, including most bosses and clients, will ever see it more than publicity, free advertising, or press releases. Your job is about to get harder than it already is, and dragging that old description around is just dead weight. If we want to evolve I think we need to kill “PR”.

Don’t get me wrong. This is not a “PR is Dead” post. In fact, the idea of relating to the public is now as important as ever. Your smart practices on quality communications are extremely valuable, but I think to stay fresh you will need to shift your view of yourself from a company communicator to that of a communities facilitator.
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Good Is Not So Great

We no longer have high control of the message as we did in the traditional one-to-many communications model. We now have a many-to-many model. Very powerful, but very low control, and it can be scary if you are closed to change.

So, I have to wonder why are so many senior communications professionals slow to embrace and own social media, communications 2.0, PR 2.0, social communications, or whatever you want to call it? I think its because of fear, uncertainty, and lethargy. This is a time where good enough communications really is the killer of great communications.

If you want to stay relevant you will need to reinvent your roll, reimagine strategies that worked yesterday, but are becoming dangerously outdated today, and reevaluate your bag of tools constantly to meet the quickly changing digital landscape. That change is not new. It has been underway for over a decade with the adoption of the popular Internet, e.g., email and message boards. A platform where anyone with an Internet connection and an opinion could talk to large dispersed groups.

It’s Not Paranoia. They Are Talking About You…And To You.

Social media and digital communications are message boards on steroids. They break down the traditional barriers to dialog, and that is great, but has a profound impact on the time-honored idea of who is the face of the company. Now everybody is. Customers can talk to others who share their passion, and talk to the vary people who make the products that are most important to them.

We now need to help train those who have a public facing roll to have the skills sets of a communications pro. Frankly, that is almost everyone in the company these days, and probably will include Joe in the warehouse who has his own blog or Susie who posts her pictures to Flickr, too.

Always Be Learning

How do you keep your skills and roll relevant? I don’t think there is a clear, one size fits all roadmap. Things are in constant motion. You need to be flexible. I would read blogs and participate in social media everyday. I would look to build new and deeper relationships with communications professionals of all ages and disciplines outside your comfort zone.

I suggest you do all those activities with the clear goal of trying to continuously answer these questions:

What knowledge and communications smart practices need to be imparted throughout the organization?

What new skills and tools will they need to understand?

What new skills and tools are the best communicators I know learning now?

How can I use social media to facilitate the organization’s learning process?

The last, that in my mind the most important question you can ask and that has the highest payoff is:

How can I harness the wisdom of the crowds in this rich communications environment to help make the organization a true thought leader?

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