I just want to say this right up front: I had nothing to do with last week’s Twitter and Facebook outages.
But I could not have orchestrated a better example for the point I made in last week’s post about how communicators fawn over social media while allowing other fundamental skills and capabilities to languish for lack of attention.
What has our profession become when we are so reliant on one form of communication — for our own use as well as to carry out the work of our clients — that its failure cripples us? A reader of another blog shared a quote from a PR manager who “said she felt ‘completely lost’ with Twitter out because ‘it gives me all the breaking news I need.’” This kind of statement makes me fear for our profession.
As I wrote last week, I understand the tremendous impact social media have made on communication in general and on the communication professions in particular. I am not a Luddite; in fact, over the years I have embraced technology as a powerful tool for organizational communication. I use and participate in social media all the time. And there is no denying that social media skills are necessary to work in our profession today.
The thing that bothers me about social media is how so many communicators are so enraptured by it that we have lost sight of skills and capabilities that are more lasting and, I believe, ultimately more important to succeed in PR and communications. I am especially concerned that the next generation of PR/communication professionals will be well-versed in social media but will lack other fundamental skills.
What skills do I believe are necessary for PR/communication professionals? Here is my list. I’d like your reactions:
- Writing. This is the foundation upon which everything else we do is built. The ability to express oneself and to use our language correctly is important for anyone, but it is required of communication professionals. There’s no room for sloppiness. We wouldn’t hire a carpenter who decided 13 inches rather than 12 equals one foot. Neither should anyone hire a professional communicator who fails to uphold basic standards of writing. Our credibility as communicators is at stake and we need to know how to use this most basic skill.
- Strategic thinking/planning. The ability to put together a strategic communication plan is important, but the real value lies in possessing a strategic mindset. This is the ability to connect the dots between PR/communication activities and business goals. My mentor and friend Les Potter taught me everything I know about strategic communication planning and I believe his model remains the best.
- Problem solving. This is akin to research, but at a more tactical level. It’s the ability to break down a problem to its root cause and then to create solutions that meet the needs of diverse constituencies. Negotiation is part of problem solving.
- Research. Business leaders don’t base their decisions purely on gut instinct. The ability to research an issue on the front end in order to understand it and on the back end in order to measure it is vital. By the way, social media can be tremendous aids in research.
- Tactical skills. We must know how to use the tools of our trade — from how to develop a website to how to produce a publication to how to plan an event. Social media are among the tools at our disposal, but there are so many more of which we also need a working knowledge.
- Business acumen. PR and communication pros must know how business works, how to navigate organizational politics and how to speak the language of business.
- Relationship management. We must know how to build and maintain relationships with various stakeholders inside and outside our businesses and our clients’ industries. It’s also important for us to manage our personal relationships within our profession because they enhance our lifelong learning.
- Flexibility. We must learn how to be open to opportunities that come to us. We must be open to criticism, adaptable to changing circumstances and open to learning. This mindset is a skill that is learned; it does not usually come naturally.
What do you think of this list? Do you see anything being especially neglected while social media command our attention?
Filed under: Back to the Basics, Employee Communication, Social Media, Strategic Communication, Writing Skills Tagged: | business communication, communication skills, communication technology, Employee Communication, Facebook, knowledge, learning, Social Media, Strategic Communication, Twitter, workplace communication, writing