Part two in a four part series.
On his visit to Melbourne for the World PR Forum, Nov 2012, IABC Chair Kerby Meyers asked IABC Victoria to convene a roundtable of senior communications practioners to contemplate the current and future development of the communcation profession.
Joined by IABC Executive Director Chris Sorek and past IABC Chair Adrian Cropley, and generously hosted by our corporate members at Telstra, twelve corporate communications leaders gathered over lunch to deliberate Kerby’s four broad themes:
- Where is the communications profession at today?
- Where is the communications profession heading over the next five to ten years?
- What are some of the issues and opportunities in getting to where we want to be?
- Open brainstorm of ideas.
By Clayton Ford, Sponsorship Chair, IABC Victoria Board
Where is the communications profession heading over the next five to ten years?
Building on issues raised in the first session, participants felt that while a communications qualification would remain important, communicators would increasingly require a broader understanding of the business environment, such as corporate governance and business financials.
There was a sense around the table that recent event, such as the global financial crisis, had highlighted the importance of reputation to business leaders, who now increasingly see business reputation as something that can be valued. This shift opens up opportunities for the communications profession to step up as the stewards of corporate reputation.
An even bigger shift is the direct to consumer dialogue being driven by technology and social media. Traditional walls are breaking down, and the arbitrary line between internal and external communications has disappeared. Technology is a game-changer dramatically altering the manner and speed at which institutions need to respond, which is breaking down hierarchies and driving up networking. Marketing no longer owns the customer relationship, and revenue comes from conversations with customers as much as marketing. There is a converging of traditional disciplines, and communications professionals are best positioned with the right mix of skills to thrive in this emerging environment.
A third area where communications will play an increasing role is in organisational change. One participant noted that effective change management is 90% communications and 10% process. Therefore it is crucial that communications is brought early into any change and transformation considerations. This opens opportunities for communicators to play a role setting and influencing the change agenda, and thereby shaping the business.
It was also felt that the role of communications leaders would increasingly evolve to become communications coaches. The drive for increased productivity, and doing more with less, will likely lead to leaner communications teams. At the same time, the spread of social media means employees are increasingly ambassadors for the business, producing content and seen to be speaking on behalf of or representing the organisation externally. These two dynamics will accelerate a shift for the communications professional from doing the organisation’s communications to coaching the organisation to communicate.
In terms of where the communications profession is headed, Kerby identified three key themes:
- communicators as active stewards of the company’s reputation;
- direct to consumer dialogue is transforming business and the role of communications; and
- technology, networks, and communities are increasingly crucial tools of communicators.