The Future Corporate Communications Professional is a Generalist
75% of Financial Times 500 companies don’t have a Chief Communications Officer (CCO) on their executive board. Are you a corporate communications professional without CCO on your business card? Not a journalist either? It might be time to position yourself, be outspoken about your added value.
PR agencies are changing into ‘PR offering advertising’, hiring former journalists to write content for brands. They want to benefit from advertising trends such as content marketing, which requires good writing skills.
Traditional advertising is disappearing. The Guardian launches Guardian Labs with Unilever Partnership.
Brands are jumping on the content marketing train and are experimenting. Publishers embrace the money brands want to invest in sponsored content.
How sustainable this concept is remains to be seen since the average reader often does not have a clue if the content is sponsored or not and sponsored content is advertising.
Also newsrooms are experimenting and innovating, changing their models to digital and mobile-first.
How do all these developments relate to the media relations work of the corporate communications professional?
10 years ago my role in corporate communications expanded from being reactive to pro-active, including earned brand PR. Good relationships with journalists, publications and senior management, knowledge of business strategy and brands and being great at messaging have been key to eventually achieve high quality visibility in influential publications with strategic stories that supported the growth strategy of the company.
With many journalists now moving away to work for brands, what is the future of journalism? Will there be influential publications and journalists left who remain interested in a strategic interview with the CEO?
How does the corporate communications professional survive in this changing media landscape?
Advertising in any shape or form remains important for brand communication. It perfectly co exists with corporate communication. You can even argue that the branded content has made advertising better. I don’t have a crystal ball but I would think that as long as the business community remains interested in corporate and independent high quality stories from the leadership of companies, corporate communication professionals add tremendous value working hard to achieve those. Relationships with key stakeholders remain important for companies, from startups to multinationals.
Regarding content marketing, key is that communication professionals are part of decision making processes and content boards, where they advise on topics, messaging, timing and coordinate smooth integration with all other communications tools and platforms.
Regarding social media, KLM is a good example of where Corporate Communications professionals have taken their role. By educating customer service staff how to engage with the public via social media and brand building PR programs.
The opportunity for Corporate Communications professionals to work closely with Marketing has never been bigger.
What does this mean for the positions corporate communication professionals hold?
It’s important to define your role and stay relevant. According to a study conducted by the Amsterdam School of Communication Research in cooperation with the European Association of Communication Directors and Russell Reynolds Associates, the CCOs of the future broaden the position of the communication officer, from predominately internal comms and media relations to reputational gatekeepers.
CEOs interviewed in the survey mention that the CCO is ‘an indispensable part of the board. In particular, when issues are highly complex and data is confidential, communications play a strategic role in the organisation’s welfare.’
What does this mean for developing desired competences and skills?
The survey mentions that Human Resources looks for desired competences and skills such as communication skills, communication knowledge, general business knowledge and business acumen.
CEOs look for communication professionals with a holistic view, understanding both external and internal communications, consistency (to face damage control) and who are able to support business plans with a communications policy.
Good company reputations are important to CEOs. They need strategies to improve media impact and consumer feedback. This means that corporate communication professionals should deepen their knowledge about amongst others blogging, social media, Search and Analytics. This does not mean they should be experts in these fields. They need to know enough to be able to brief experts and evaluate their work.
If communications professionals have a close relationship with their CEO, get out of their comfort zone and always are learning, they are well underway to face the future.
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