Essential skills in a difficult economy

These tough economic times have had a dramatic impact on many facets of the business world.

These tough economic times have had a dramatic impact on many facets of the business world. With budgets being slashed and the reputations of companies and their executives on high alert, the skills necessary for senior-level practitioners to remain successful have also been affected.

No longer do PR professionals have the option of remaining at all passive while producing “business as usual” output. In fact, the current challenge-laden environment is an opportunity for individuals to take on even more of a leadership role in shaping future success.

But maximizing and enhancing one's value in such a difficult climate are not without obstacles. The tumultuous marketplace and heightened government and consumer scrutiny are some of the factors that have forced communicators to operate at warp speed. Also, as conversations multiply, thanks to new technologies, the battle over control of messaging has taken on newfound importance.

As an executive recruiter, I see the following attributes as the most coveted by our clients, as well as being the ones that will help individuals remain essential to an organization's future:

  • Be a generalist: Long gone, for most companies, is the luxury of a staff full of specialty personnel. Organizations have to do much more with far less, and those that can demonstrate a broad skill set immediately become more valuable. This is the case for people at all levels, but specifically those in leadership positions.
  • Player-coach: Staff cutbacks and heightened anxiety among C-suite executives are forcing senior communicators to become more hands-on than in recent years. Making sure you can drive strategy, but still roll up your sleeves and pitch in is essential, especially when giving a voice to members of the executive team.
  • Management counselor: Professional and personal reputations are under attack for executives and companies across many industries. Senior communicators that are trustworthy; able to “self-correct” as they anticipate future challenges; and can deliver tough news are true members of the inner circle.
  • Business communicator: PR professionals must have a strong knowledge of their company's business model and understand the financial implications of their actions in order to be effective. Additionally, the function must be able to translate that into demonstrated ROI for management.

The communications arena finds itself at a unique crossroad caught between the challenges this economy presents and the evolution of the media. As a senior executive in this business, staying relevant in the face of existing challenges and looking to sharpen old and new skills, alike, are keys to fortifying your position as a business leader.

Bill Heyman is president and CEO of Heyman Associates.

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