Re-Defining Today’s Communicator

Dilbert

Two weeks into 2014 and much of the talk about what’s hot and what’s not for communicators is about technology.

Of the many, many tech topics that appear on trends and predictions lists, there are three that I believe warrant our attention in early 2014 above all others:

  1. Mobile: especially usage shifts and trends such as BYOD, the mobile cloud, and the “appification” of the workplace and business generally.
  2. Collaborative economy:  access to and/or use of an asset – a product or a service – when it’s needed, rather than the actual ownership of that asset; and the rise of peer communities to facilitate the sharing of and  access to products and services. This shift has big implications for businesses, both in how they sell products and services and in how employees work.
  3. Data analytics: gaining actionable insight from raw data needs a broad understanding of tools and methods to process that data, quickly and effectively. It also means a greater need to filter information, knowing what to look for and what to ignore. The need for expert knowledge is paramount, so the role of data analyst will grow. Yet not everything needs deep or detailed analytics, meaning the communicator needs “DIY skills.”

For communicators, the focus at the very least is understanding the role of technologies and behaviour shifts like these in the organisational communication setting, internally and externally. It’s not about being expert in use – although proficiency is clearly a good thing – nor being the go-to guy or gal for everyone with a question.

It’s about understanding…

  • the relevance and context of such technologies and behaviours in the workplace;
  • what communicators need to do; and
  • how, where and when.

Understanding digital and how to use social media have been a huge focus for communicators during the past few years. As knowledge of social networks, tools and channels have become mainstream – in society and in the workplace – and use more universal, the pressure for communicators to “embrace social” has grown to be almost overwhelming.

But today’s communicator must do much more than tweet and post likes to her timeline or pics to Instagram. Today’s communicator – at whatever level he or she occupies in the organisation – must, as never before, have clear vision and understanding of how communication and the communicator are key strategic assets that support measurable business objectives.

Here’s what you need to have as your foundation for 2014:

  1. Deep understanding of organisations and how they function.
  2. Understanding of your own organisation culture and structure.
  3. Knowing who the major influencers and key subject-matter experts are within the organisation.
  4. An impeccable understanding of your organisation’s business vision and mission.
  5. A clear view on the measurable benefits that can arise from being a ‘social business.’

Your foundation is critical to enabling you to fulfil the important role you must play in the rapidly-changing landscape that embraces organisation change, behavioural change and technology change; and where the three intersect, online and offline.

In an age where anyone can claim to be a communicator in business, it’s time for professional communicators to prove their relevance and context in what they do for their employers and clients, showing evidence through confident knowledge and the context of its benefit – the ROI – to the organisation.

Let’s get cracking!

First published by simply-communicate.com on January 10, 2014, as part of a larger feature entitled Internal Communications predictions for 2014.

The feature includes opinions from Marie Wallace, Analytics Strategist at IBM Social Business Division; Mike Grafham, Yammer Customer Success Lead; Kevin Ruck, Co-founder The PR Academy; Mark Morrell, Intranet Pioneer; Stephen Welch, President of IABC UK; Ian Buckingham, internal communications champion, senior partner at various IComms consultancies and author; Marc Wright, Publisher of simply-communicate; Tim Johns, Change Agency; The IC CrowdRachel Miller, Jenni Wheller, Dana Leeson; Euan Semple, Director, euansemple.com and author; Gloria Lombardi, Community Manager, Webmaster, Reporter at simply-communicate; and Neville Hobson (that’s me).

Dilbert cartoon at top of page by Scott Adams, published on December 26, 2010.