Competencies 101 – Part 1 – Introspection: What defines the future of PR professionals?

I was invited to speak at the annual meet of a large PR consultancy last week. The request was to talk on the future trends in PR and how to navigate through the communications landscape in a digital world. I spoke about technology, digital PR and videos and platforms…the regular clichéd stuff albeit with examples of how we have implemented them. A lively conversation ensued. The discussions were almost on the same lines as in the past two weeks where I got an opportunity to attend PRune in Bangalore and then the Impact India summit. These conversations with fellow communicators are still fresh on my mind. 

The feel I got was that there is a lot of excitement amongst PR folks when it comes to the future of the business and new age media. However, there is an equal amount of confusion around how to own and effectively implement these areas of technology based communications. Worse so was the feel I got during my conversations with a few budding PR professionals who were either just a few years in the game or still studying in communication schools. The anticipation and confusion was evident in equal measures. Considering the quality of the syllabus in most of the communication schools, the quality of the crop that comes out would possibly not match the expectations of this fast evolving community. Now that could pose a serious concern!

I don’t mean to paint a bleak picture of the PR community in India. It rocks, there is a need, it has some of the best people calling the shots, there is energy, there are niggles but overall the Indian PR community is quite exciting!

However, if you sit back and truly introspect – has the community got the due it deserves?  

If yes, chill. 

If not, have you ever thought why? 

Is the community prepared to take on the challenges, the new gig economy has openly thrown towards it? 

Are the professionals well entrenched with the developments in technology?

Are we going to be impacted by AI?

Are we building on our competencies to stay relevant?

Will we as a community be able to clearly, in a measurable way, showcase the value we bring to the table?

Are we attracting the best talent to business?

How are we addressing the challenges of a talent crunch? (BTW, I have not met even one consultancy head or a corporate communications head who says he/she are sorted on the talent front!)

Well, they may sound like random musings. But, there is an enormous need to think in this direction. 

I feel, going forward, one aspect that will make this community bullish about its well-being is ‘Competency’. Competence, I believe is the ability to solve problems in an organised way.

The expectations around the demonstrable competences of PR and corporate communication professionals will continue to increase due to the underlying forces playing on this wonderful profession.  While organisations will provide opportunities to enhance competencies, a base level preparedness is key. Going forward, communicators will have to master a vast set of skill sets demanded by the nature of the business. Old competencies of media relations, press release drafting, event management etc., may not be sufficient. For example, many professionals have now felt the need enhance their digital expertise or invest in learning big data analysis.

A new world of PR and corporate communications demands a new set of competencies. I have been working on a kind of competency framework model that could have nuances of necessary competencies that are required at each level as a professional moves up in his/her career. While elements like ethics, engagement, strategy etc., are key, I firmly believe that in today’s world and in the foreseeable future, the competencies would be classified across four key verticals. I have tried to list out all the possible contemporary competencies and reached a number that crossed twenty and then tried to classify them under common themes and this is where the four verticals emerged. So it is not just a fancy number. These are, strategy, influencer engagement, content curation, and Digital PR. Each vertical requires multiple competencies. I am still packaging it in a snug manner but the more I see them, the more my belief in them goes up. They are the decisive factors that I personally believe will take our profession to the next level.

I plan to share these in detail and my thoughts around them in four separate columns after this one. So the next column would be dedicated to competencies that I feel will help communicators strategise better in a digitally driven world. 

In the meanwhile, do drop me a line on what makes you feel bullish about our profession and what gives you the heebie-jeebies!

Sujit M Patil, ABC on FacebookSujit M Patil, ABC on LinkedinSujit M Patil, ABC on Twitter
Sujit M Patil, ABC
Sujit Patil is Vice President and Head Corporate Brand & Communications, Godrej Industries Limited and Associate Companies

As a part of the Godrej Leadership Forum, Sujit is responsible for managing and building Godrej reputation across diverse stakeholders.

Listed as India’s top ten men in corporate communications by Reputation Today, he was featured on the PR Week Global Power Book, the definitive guide to PR industry’s most influential operators around the world. In 2018, 2019, 2020, and most recently in 2021 Sujit was listed fourth time in a row on the Holmes Report’s Influence 100 research and listing of the world’s most influential in-house marketing and communications professionals. In 2020 he was recognized as the Corporate Communications professional of the year at IPRCCA. He has been featured among top 25 on Reputation Today’s list of 100 most important professionals in Indian PR and corporate communications, Exchange4media’s Top 100 Influential Game Changers list and Adgully powerful influencers list for 2020 and 2021.

Apart from being a speaker and jury at various national and international bodies such as the World Communication Forum, Davos, AMEC, ICCO, PR Newsweek Asia, Public Affairs Asia, etc., Sujit is a part of the prestigious Arthur W Page Society. He volunteers as a guest faculty at various B-Schools, is a weekend farmer, loves travelling, understanding cultures and experimenting with new cuisines.

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