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The changing communications flight path: from specialist to generalist

At IABC Victoria’s recent communications career webinar, Mark Schumann, Vice President Marketing & Communications of Western Connecticut Health Network said that communicators “must be able to fly at altitude and land in all places”.

Now, Tim James of Ampersand expands on that theme with a look at the growing demand for generalists in communications.

As businesses strive for greater customer growth by driving efficiencies through innovation, commercial strategies, channel optimisation and system and process integration, the profile of the communications practitioner has changed.  

What we are now seeing is a diminishing appetite for highly specialised communicators with one sole pursuit. In a developing environment where the lines between internal and external communications have been eroded, many organisations are now seeking generalist, broad-based practitioners with multiple strings to their bow.  Increasingly, organisations are now less focussed on employing practitioners with one sole skillset or focus such as media, public relations, internal communications or corporate social responsibility and are opting for generalists who have a crisp understanding and hands-on experience across multiple aspects of corporate affairs and communications.  The foundation of this experience however still comes from a strong bias towards an external affairs heritage with the proven ability to translate this into broader internal and stakeholder communications.  

From a talent perspective, organisations are assembling teams that are cross-functional both in their cultural make-up and technical experience. This ensures a ’hand-in-glove’ approach to the strategic development and execution of internal and external communications, rather than the creation of silos.

Having said that, best practice operating rhythms are still challenged to breakdown the silo model, both in practice and in attitude. Theoretically organisations are getting it right – their aspiration and willingness to change is ever present, however their ability to apply this in working practice tends to be inconsistent. It’s not due to lack of want, it’s due to lack of consistent attitudinal execution across organisations. This leads to a culture of customer and people transformation getting lost in the complexity of global, regional and cross-functional structures.

With technology at the fore, the bridge to link specialist functions under the Communications/Corporate Affairs structure has never been more important. With channels to the customer increasing, reputation and risk management strategies are critical.  The impact of technology is a prime example. Given the technology that’s available today, gone are the days where you can assume internal messaging remains exclusive to the internal audience. Organisations must make sure that the internal narrative is fit for external consumption given that the channels for dissemination are now so immediate and diverse.  

Did you miss our recent webinar?

By the way, if you did miss the recent webinar "How to build your communications career" by Mark Schumann, you're in luck. Here it is.

 

 

As General Manager of Ampersand in Melbourne, Tim also heads up Ampersand’s Corporate Affairs Practice across Asia Pacific. Ampersand is one of the regions leading executive, search and advisory firms who connect people with people, people with brands and people with possibility.Tim arrives with more than 13 years of experience working in Corporate Affairs, Marketing and Product positions with one of the world’s leading luxury brands, BMW Group.

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