Competencies 101 – Part II – The first bucket: Strategy!

In the last column, I wrote about the need for new age competencies that would be required by communications professionals to stay relevant. I made a point that old competencies of media relations, press release drafting, event management etc., may not be sufficient. As a structure, I have divided the overall list of key competencies in to four buckets (strategy, influencer engagement, content curation, and Digital PR) that I feel will help professionals deliver better and help PR get the due it deserves! 

The first bucket is strategy

Strategy according to Google is just a method or a plan chosen to bring about a desired future, such as achievement of a goal or solution to a problem and is basically the art and science of planning and marshalling resources for their most efficient and effective use. Very true when it comes to a PR strategy too. So here’s my first set of competencies that can help a communicator be more strategic.

  • Business acumen and understanding 

Business acumen or sense is the competency that will allow a PR professional to understand and cope with different business situations. It is all about market orientation, an ability to analyse competitive data, understand the consumer’s business needs, the buying patterns, business issues and most importantly the levers of the business that one represents. Understanding finance and able to talk the language of the C-Suite (numbers, profitability, ROI, ROO) would certainly be beneficial.

  • Audience segmentation

With multiple generations in the audience, each having different consumption patterns when it comes to information, the ability to segment and target consumers would be helpful. The era of one message for all is gone and each segment understands differently. PR professionals having the ability to customise messages based on audiences would have an edge!

  • Cultural empathy, understanding of diversity, equality and ethics 

Cultural empathy is simply having an appreciation and consideration of the differences and similarities of another culture in comparison to one’s own. The internet has broken the silos across geographies and messaging has to be packaged in a way that it does not have negative impacts due to cultural nuances. A communicator needs to be also very conscious about respecting diversity, equality (of course from the heart) and comply with ethics as scrutiny is at the highest levels due to enhanced access enabled by the internet and new age media.

  • Holistic campaign planning

Campaign planning has evolved over the years and in today’s world that thrives on integrated communications, the respect for POEMS (Paid, Owned, Earned Media strategies) has gone up. Holistic thinking about impacts, reach, creativity and relevance has to go in planning campaigns that are then enabled through multiple platforms. PR professionals need to start looking beyond just traditional PR approaches.

  • Design thinking

Design thinking is a process for solving problems in a creative manner. It has a human-centered core and encourages organisations to focus on the people they’re creating for, which leads to better solutions and processes. Same holds true for PR professionals who are trying to solve organisational issues. They must going forward master the design thinking stages viz., empathising, defining the issue, collaborative ideation, modelling and testing. Research based narratives for PR is a classic example and one will do more and more in this digital world.

Assuming a basic understanding of the communications processes exists, the above five competencies would only help create a powerful and holistic communications strategy that is well equipped to address the communications issues faced by organisations in this digital world.

In part 3 of this column, I shall take up the second bucket viz. Influencer engagement. We shall discuss what are the key competencies required for being a PR professional with a flair for influencer engagement.

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Sujit M Patil, ABC
Sujit is responsible for building and sustaining Godrej group’s reputation across stakeholders. An IABC accredited business communicator and a three time winner of the IABC International Gold Quill award, he has been listed as India’s top ten men in corporate communications by Reputation Today and featured on the PR Week Global Power Book.

In 2018, Sujit was listed on the Holmes Report’s Influence 100 research and listing of the world’s most influential in-house marketing and communications professionals. A speaker and jury at various national and international bodies such as the WCF Davos, AMEC, 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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