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Communications Evolved – Rethinking the Communications Shop

Last August, I wrote a post entitled “Innovation Lab | Who Should Be At The Table” where I laid out some thoughts about the types of people and positions needed to create an environment that fosters and encourages organizational innovation.

Today, I am looking at how the evolving communications landscape requires a fresh look at the skills needed in a modern communications office. This is not at all to devalue the work of individuals in media relations or “traditional” web (hard to believe that you can actually say traditional web at this point) but rather to make sure that communications is prepared for the challenges that are coming and opportunities that are presented. In a world where “65 percent of children entering grade school this year will end up working in careers that haven’t even been invented yet” (h/t @EricaHolt), none of us can afford to stand still.

  • Community Managers: I will always defer to Lovisa Williams when discussing the importance of Community Managers but I have been involved in enough online communities to know that without someone to tending to and nurturing the group that it will not thrive. A significant component of modern, successful communications relies on engaging with and empowering interested stakeholders. Skilled community managers can make this happen and can create a vibrant space where information and ideas are shared in ways that benefit everyone.
  • Knowledge Development Specialists: One of the essential roles that communications offices provide is as the link between those external to an organizations and the staff and leadership within an organization. With the ever-expanding number of channels and platforms that individuals can use to expresses their opinions, it would be an easy argument to make that modern communications is 50% about putting information out and 50% taking information in. However raw information, whether it be tweets, Facebook posts, blog comments or more structured feedback mechanisms, is often more noise than signal. To transform this information into something meaningful and actionable, more staff is needed to turn information into knowledge.
  • Network Analysts: To understand the importance of this issue, all you need to do is watch the TED video from Deb Roy on The Birth of a Word. The tools and science behind understanding how information moves through and across networks will only continue to improve and effective network analysis can help make enormous leaps in predicting and measuring the impact of communications efforts.
  • Mobile Technologies Specialists: Although making content mobile-friendly should already be embedded in all of our current approaches, the reality is that mobile technologies are still sufficiently new (and still evolving rapidly enough) that it probably needs to be called out as a separate role. I see this as a rather short-lived position though as mobile content development and delivery should mature very quickly and mobile “optimization” will probably become the norm rather than the exception in the not-too-distant future.
  • Social Marketers (and Design Thinkers): Again, I’d prefer to point to the experts much smarter than myself (@chiefmaven, @Nedra and @SocialBttrfly) to help flesh this argument out but, if nothing else, having people on the team that understand that our work is really about people, not audiences benefits everyone.

I fully realize that this list is just a start and honestly hope that the post is able to spark some more robust conversations around this issue. Please drop in a comment or shoot a tweet to me with ideas for other positions or skills that you think are critical to modern communications efforts.

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I’m personally huge fan of 1 and 5

I think the community manager role is so key. In a lot of ways, it has evolved from a good public relations person who knows who to call at newspapers/magazines to either cover their story or get the facts straight. Community managers know where communities exist online, how to engage them, and how to nurture them.

Social marketers – I also like engagement specialist as a title there. To me it’s how do you get people to do what you want. Like your facebook page. Share your content. Take an action. Open your email. There is real skill in the engagement funnel of how you get people to engage (from reading to deep engagement)