Corporate Communications Executive 2.0 — The 4 Skills Needed To Thrive

Posted on November 16, 2009

The Mad Skills Communications Pros Need To Thrive


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Legions of senior marketing leaders owe their jobs to Dan Green, and that is what makes him one of Silicon Valley’s most in demand executive search consults and connected guys. As I have been exploring what skills the new communications pro will need to thrive in today’s changing marketing landscape, I thought of several people I wanted to ask for their insight. Dan is on that very short list.

He has a lot of irons in the fire, which is why I appreciate him finally breaking under the barrage of my pleas…um, I mean graciously consenting to contribute a post on Corporate Communications Executive 2.0. Part 2 of the series. (To read Part 1, A Mass Comms Curriculum Alone Short-Sheets Tomorrow’s PR Pro by Lou Hoffman.) Besides being one of the top recruiters for high tech marketing executives, Dan is the president and senior search consultant for both and Marcom Match.

Steve Farnsworth (@Steveology)


Dan Green, Guest Blogger

Corporate Communications Executive 2.0 — The 4 Skills Needed To Thrive

By Dan Green, @DanGreen_VPM

The marketing skill sets needed to succeed and be employable have always evolved, but the fundamental nature of the way companies connect with customers is under radical transformation. Customers no longer want to be talked at; they want to be talked with. Being able to accomplish this flawlessly has many moving parts, and that means marketing teams not only have to be comprised of multidisciplinary members, but each member’s skill set must be interdisciplinary.

Steve and I first talked more than a decade ago. However, over this last year we have communicated more frequently on how social technologies are impacting every communications professional. While a more complete discussion on this topic would fill a book, Steve asked that I capture a few of my observations that the C-suite and future leaders could use now.

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In order to have greater depth to these ideas I interviewed several noted thought leaders in the high tech public relations and communications community to get their insight on the topic.*

What I have below is clearly not exhaustive, but they are the ideas that really resonated with me as a recruiter. Also, as we all know, many vital corporate communications skills are clearly timeless and I’ve tried not to put too much overlap of them here.

Increased Importance Of Ethics And Corporate Social Responsibility Considerations.

The concept of transparency as it pertains to the modern enterprise is relatively new and hugely transformational. Because of current and future technology, our organizations are going to be transparent whether we like it or not. We’re all living, or will shortly be living, in glass houses. As a result, it’s going to be largely up to the top communications leaders within the company to make sure this fact represents an opportunity and not a restriction. The silver lining of the existence of the challenge posed by transparency from the communications person’s point of view is that, if it’s within her purview, it gives her a lot more leverage for influence internally — and should mean even greater access to and cooperation from C-level executives.

Greater Flexibility In Writing And Speaking Style.

My PR friends tell me that in many cases the press isn’t the primary audience for their press releases anymore. More often they’re writing them for the end users, or they’re presenting the information in a short, web friendly video. As a result the savvy communications pro is very careful about balancing the use of conversational-style writing and speaking with the more formal, “professional” style.  Use of the proper voice and tone in the company’s various channels of communication is key, and while it’s a task that in and of itself may not be that hard on a case by case basis, we have to remember that it all has to be integrated seamlessly with the overall messaging and marketing activities.

More Metrics And Quantitatively Oriented.

There is clearly debate about the extent to which lead generation and lead nurturing could and should play a role in what PR people are going to be asked to do in the near future, at least as it pertains to their role driving social media initiatives for their companies. What’s really not debatable is that the need to analyze what people do on the web (and how much they do it) will continue to grow. That means looking at numbers, data, statistics — web analytics. There’s no escaping it. Communications experts are going to need to know their stuff here, especially if they want to gain respect and get more influence with top management.

Open Minded, Flexible Job Description

Communications professionals (along with the rest of us) are obviously in a very fluid situation as far as social media goes. Many companies currently split the responsibility for running social media 50/50 between product marketing and corporate communications. That will likely change, but it’s uncertain how or which direction it will head. To be married to one paradigm or to simply be in the habit of saying, for example, “That’s not our job. That’s marketing’s job,” probably won’t move the modern communications person’s career down the optimal path.

My Final Two Cents

From what I’m hearing out there, many C-level execs are still somewhat skeptical about the real, ultimate importance of social media in the grand scheme of things, and with good reason. Most of us are old enough to remember the reckless “gold rush” mentality prevalent circa 1999 — and there’s really no desire on their part to repeat that bit of history. So my advice would again have to do with the value of being flexible, so that when your brilliant social media plan/strategy is met with resistance, you’re careful enough so as not to give off the “you-just-don’t-get-it” vibe.

* I wish to express deep gratitude and appreciation to Suzanne Panoplos, Account Director, Engage PR, and Bradford Williams, Vice President, Worldwide Corporate Communications at VeriSign, and Angelique Faul, Principal, Kulesa Faul, Inc. for their generosity of time, advice, and insight that were invaluable in developing this article.

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