Newsflash: Our future is about talent

I recently had the privilege to be invited by the Council of PR Firms to join some colleagues in a teleconference/webinar about the strategies agencies can employ to do well in this difficult economy.

I recently had the privilege to be invited by the Council of PR Firms to join some colleagues in a teleconference/webinar about the strategies agencies can employ to do well in this difficult economy.

I was joined by Kathryn Metcalfe of Pfizer, Baker & McKenzie's Mark Bain, Peppercom's Darryl Siry, and by our moderator, Darryl Salerno of Second Quadrant.

It should come as no surprise that these folks had some terrific insights, ranging from high-value ways to help companies drive their businesses forward to basic recommendations on the importance of passionately focusing on client loyalty in such a tumultuous time.

We were told that approximately 30 or so agency professionals from across the country were listening on the phone and, in some cases, participating in our online, real-time group surveys.

As a panel, we spoke and answered our moderator's questions for about a half-hour, leaving about the same amount of time for audience questions.

When it came time, Darryl opened the phone lines and asked for some questions. There weren't any.

One week later, Janis Forman, a professor of management communications at UCLA's Anderson School of Management, invited me to talk to her MBA students. The subject: the state of corporate communications.

Once again, the schedule permitted about an hour. I spoke for about half that time and opened up the balance for Q&A. The result: More questions than time permitted.

Here's an observation based on these two experiences.

The world is changing. Responsibilities that have historically resided within “corporate communications,” such as media relations, issues management, and employee engagement, may well be shifting thanks to new technologies and new, direct channels of communication. Marketing no longer sees itself as “advertising” and limited to one-way communications. It now claims rights to “two-way dialogue” and stakeholder engagement as much as anyone.

As a result, responsibility for new forms of communications will shift to the most talented individuals, regardless of department. And if the marketing discipline keeps hiring MBAs and attracting the best and brightest, then it will drive the organization's digital communications strategy.

It doesn't have to be this way, but the battle isn't about turf and territory. It's about talent.

Our people better be damned smart. About business, about all forms of communications, and how the two intersect.

Isn't it interesting that the smartest people always ask the most questions? We need to be asking more.

Bob Feldman is cofounder and principal of PulsePoint Group, a communications management consulting firm. He can be reached at bfeldman@pulsepointgroup.com. Feldman's monthly column focuses on management of the corporate communications function.

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