The way and speed that people consume news and information has changed, the media per se have changed, as well as the stakeholders and their expectations of organizations and governments. The essence of public relations remains the same: influence people’s behavior and attitudes by creating truthful and meaningful relationships between the organization and its publics. However, considering this new scenario, which are the skills that need to be developed in the future?
According to Dr. Tom Watson and Dr. Chindu Sreedharan, from The Media School at Bournemouth University, “the communicators need to be educated and trained on higher skills than ever before”. They conducted a research amongst senior communicators in Europe and North America and other markets to identify the most important skills and knowledge areas.
The report analyses the responses of senior-level communicators regarding knowledge, skills, relationships, vision, and managerial abilities that senior communications professionals will need in five years’ time, and what it takes to prepare the next generation of leaders in globally integrated organizations.
Based on the study findings and literature, what is needed to have communications professionals delivering the “extra mile” and definitely taking-up their position in the decision–making coalition? It’s possible to summarize it in seven key areas of development:
1 – Strategic management:
If practitioners are looking for professional progression they need to dominate the business language and assume a managerial view towards communication. That way they will be valued and bring value to the business. For that, the professional needs to learn a totally different group of skills, understand the industry and sector of its company, gain knowledge of business principals and develop a strategic view of the value of communication.
2 – Counseling skills:
The top management makes decisions based on internal and external factors and needs to be provided with information regarding both, namely “environmental scanning”. The role of communications managers in this scenario is to consider all relevant issues and trends in the social environment and interpret them to facilitate the “dominant coalition” decision.
For that professionals needs to be the “eyes and ears” of the company and assume a kind of “corporate radar” role. In order to do that, it’s important for the professional to develop research skills, analytical and critical skills and issues management. Other skills required are conflict management, communications skills to coach senior management about how to communicate, manage relationships and deal with new demands.
3 – Interdisciplinary skills:
According to the study The Senior Communicator of the Future, the communication professional will need to develop a “set of skills, knowledge and competencies in order to act as advisors of equal standing with senior operational colleagues”.
As communications departments work closely with many different areas, they need to develop a team with cross-disciplinary skills and knowledge able to plan in collaboration with other managers in areas like marketing, legal, human resources and finance. This will help communication among the departments and facilitate priorities setting, goals and resources definition and also will bring consistency to the messages.
4- Stakeholder’s management & Internal networking :
Developing refined stakeholder management skills can be the differentiator in a communications professional’s career and a valuable asset to the communication department.
The ability to analyze the big picture and take advantage of unfavorable situations implies being able to plan in advance, considering all possible public reactions, identifying the allies and adversaries and measuring well the potential impact on communication and the company’s reputation.
That requires great networking and communication skills in order to identify those who can make a real difference, keep them well-informed and create a favorable environment for the organization.
5- Proof of performance:
Demonstrating the impact of communication strategy on the organization’s effectiveness will be more relevant than ever for PR practitioners and this will require a higher level of analysis and planning skills to deliver outcomes measurement.
The communications professional needs to understand that strategic public relations should be planned and managed by organizational objectives. This is also reflected in the way that communication is evaluated inside the organization. Therefore, simply counting how many articles the company appeared in in the newspapers is no longer acceptable and that’s why a deeper and more effective training of public relations practitioners in measurement and research is needed.
6 -Interpreter of changes and trends:
In high performance organizations, which use communications in a strategic way, the ability to analyze trends in the social environment and propose communication programs based on these findings is increasingly valued. The study highlights, “the future senior communicators need to be able to interpret changes and trends in communication technologies and practices”.
7 – Internationalization:
Communications professionals nowadays are increasingly exposed to international and cross-cultural communications problems and activities and must be prepared to understand the nuances of different cultures in order to propose tailor-made solutions and lead the organizations to successful collaborations.
Combined with the influence of the new media in this “global village”, the importance of intercultural knowledge, understanding of how to communicate across cultural and linguistic barriers and work on a global basis has increased for any communication professional.