Comms: a capability for a company, not a department
Mónica González Ortín
Predicting the future of the communication sector is not a simple task. We move in an industry in which changes are constant, and in which the profile of the professionals that comprise it is also changing, almost at the same pace.
The communications professional has greatly increased their professional reputation, and their position, within companies and organizations. They have gained influence in the design of business strategy, and increased their role as reputation managers. It is worth remembering that PR stands for "Public Relations" not "Press Relations". And this means that communications functions include managing the relationship with all key audiences, whether internal, external, institutional or other.
The digital transformation that organizations have undergone has had a great influence on the evolution of the discipline and the professional who develops it. Their profile now demands increased skills in management, marketing and digital, which join with traditional capabilities to configure a cross-functional communication function that permeates all areas of a company. This implies having an increasingly active role in a bi-directional communication model, in which the public participates, so it is easier to take the pulse of consumers, and refine the message and the communication strategy.
This expansion of competencies is also key to managing an ever-closer relationship between communications and marketing. Regardless of whether they remain autonomous departments or are integrated into one, this collaboration seeks to ensure that messages from both work in unison for the benefit of the brand. This has implications for other departments, including human resources. The objective needs to be more effective internal communication, vital to getting employees to be the first and best ambassadors of a brand.
In order to manage integrated and cross-organizational communications plans, communications managers need to develop omnichannel strategies. Corporate websites, blogs, newsletters, relationships with influencers, and social media management, all must be combined with traditional forms of communication. Brands should look at integrating channels and exploring new means of payment to expand the distribution of content in ways that fall between journalism and advertising. Branded content, sponsored events, working breakfasts, promotional videos ... the most avant-garde professionals must manage all of these new formats, avoiding excessively commercial tactics and providing genuinely useful information. This means having a strong understanding of communications tools, the public and their interests in each channel.
The world is changing in a vertiginous way, and communications professionals must transform themselves before the world transforms them. They must understand the effects of the latest technologies, incorporate new trends, and prepare to face the many challenges that lie ahead.
Micro communication will impose itself on mass communication and, although the basics will not change, to execute this will involve greater refinement of content. We are turning toward a more segmented and more value-added approach to messaging, as well as adapting to new formats.
Nothing will escape the reach of accurate measurement tools. PR professionals will have data experts who will develop new tools and metrics to be able to better show the value they bring. The digital world enables the director of communications to better measure the impact of their actions, and demonstrate how the intangible becomes business results.
Creativity will also be important. In the age of quality, content will have to feature more creative, novel and eye-catching stories. The lines between social and traditional media are blurring, and mobile media will drive content toward shorter formats, even incorporating even virtual reality, the deployment of which will require yet more specialist skills.
As technology advances, the news cycle and workflow will be even more intense. The PR professional must, therefore, manage huge amounts of information and develop new systems of analyzing it. This also means dealing with news from unreliable sources, from anywhere in the world, which can immediately gather momentum. The scope of work will require a more global approach. Any event anywhere on the planet can affect us immediately.
In this scenario, communications agencies will have an active consulting role that will help the PR professional in their growing roles of managing strategy and brand positioning. They should be a key support in keeping abreast of new trends, since such rapid changes require someone who knows good practices in other sectors and markets.
Communications professionals must adapt quickly, be flexible, and be constantly in learning mode to face the challenges that lie ahead.