No two paths are alike when it comes to any profession, and that is especially true about careers in communication and PR. Each year, we have dynamic young people joining this profession in India, and they are all usually tech and social media savvy and avid storytellers in the digital medium. So, while they are reasonably prepared for the technological changes in the communications industry, there are some crucial competencies and skills that can enable them to stand out from the crowd.
Strong understanding of business
Young communication and PR professionals who take an active interest in understanding how enterprises work, their business priorities, their go-to-market strategy, the client’s perception of ‘value’, what differentiates the business and gives it a competitive advantage and, at the same time, what the competition is better at, etc., will have a huge advantage over those who do not. Imagine trying to convince a CEO about running a campaign without being able to define how it would impact the business and influence the target audience (TA). Or trying to guide business leaders on using social media without knowing how the business functions. And you don’t need to have an MBA to get this understanding!
Creative ideas – but within the business framework
Everyone loves to have a creative thinker on the team who comes up with new ideas. Young comms professionals entering the workforce will need to be innovative with campaigns to be able to stand out. While creativity is definitely a quality to be nurtured, it is not worthwhile for any enterprise to be creative just for the sake of it. A creative campaign must ultimately impact the business positively. As David Ogilvy famously said, “I run the risk of being denounced by the idiots who hold that any advertising technique which has been in use for more than two years is ipso facto obsolete.” After all these decades, I believe his remark holds true for communication per se, which needs to fulfil a business objective.
Great analytical skills (embrace data)
When I started working, campaigns were planned after research was done on various facets of the consumer with respect to the product/service. Today, a lot of this consumer behavior research data can be gleaned from social media/online platforms. Data and insights will always be a communication professional’s best friend. What has changed is that use of appropriate technology can enable a comms professional to be well-armed for effectively connecting with the target audience (TA). Every campaign can throw up huge amounts of data. From understanding how best to position, how to reach the TA, testing which part of the campaign engaged the TA, which aspect generated quality leads, what needs tweaking in the comms to garner more engagement, where and how to retarget, what are competitors doing to drive engagement, whether or not to continue with a campaign – all of these decisions entail data analysis. So, it is now imperative for comms professionals to be able to make sense of large amounts of data, draw meaningful insights and define campaign success metrics using data-driven outcomes.
Sharp writing skills
The written/printed word is not going away. In fact, with all the technology at our disposal today, great storytelling is more important than ever before. Irrespective of whether one joins a PR consultancy or takes up a corporate role, comms professionals can only be truly impactful if they can write with clarity and precision. To be a truly effective communicator, write to tell a story effectively. Once again, as David Ogilvy said, “You cannot bore people into buying your products. You can only interest them into buying it.”
As we adopt technology in our careers, one thing is clear – to achieve long-term success, comms professionals must be open to constantly learning and experimenting while continuing to remain strong on the fundamentals of communication. New tech platforms, different social media networks and radical new ways of communicating will keep emerging. Those who are able to get a handle on these changes and continue to leverage insights about human behaviour will be the ones to watch out for.
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