This year’s CIPR annual conference has focused on the role of communications leadership in the new world. And what a world!
The lives and work of every comms leader, alongside those of everybody else, have been thrown into some sort of disarray due to the impact of COVID-19. But the skills, expertise and strength that characterises many a comms leader has enabled us to support and steer our businesses and clients through unprecedented times. Overcoming the challenges which ensued following COVID-19 required adaptability, strategic thinking, and deploying a number of the key attributes comms leaders develop throughout their careers and technology has been helping too.
I was lucky enough to be on a panel during this week’s CIPR Annual Conference with David Benigson and Campbell McIlroy discussing the strategic role of comms leaders and how technology is increasingly underpinning our approach. Throughout my career, I’ve seen and experienced the long road that communicators take to have the full extent of their impact and strategic insight recognised by the businesses they work for. It takes consistency, resilience and strong relationships to have your voice heard – and this goes for in-house and agency teams alike.
Whilst becoming a well-regarded strategic team isn’t always an easy journey, technology is making it easier by providing data, insight and intelligence that supports strategic decision-making and not just for comms teams but right the way up to the C-suite.
As the role of the comms leader continues to evolve, we must lean into the need for technology-enabled data and the future looking piece it gives us, coupled with skills that have stood the test of time. These so-called ‘softer’ skills such as relationships, understanding audiences and empathy are of unrivaled importance in our skills armoury. It’s the blend of the two that delivers results.
A fantastic element of technology is its time saving abilities. Tech-enabled teams free up time for other tasks – often using those essential softer skills – such as building their networks. Internal networks boost the profile of the work and insight that a communications function has within a business and facilitates the true strength that teamwork delivers. From sales and internal comms to marketing and public affairs, working with colleagues across our organisations helps us to all make a more informed strategic impact on our businesses.
Which brings us to the saying that knowledge is power. The power of having information is multiplied when it is shared. As strategic comms professionals we must resist the urge to hide our insight and knowledge, using it for our own purposes and metrics. Instead, we must consider how to leverage this insight for others too. Who can learn from it? What can we help them to learn? And how will it help our business?
We can’t talk about data in the communications industry without touching on evaluation and metrics.
What is crucial here is tying your metrics to those of the whole organisation and the strategic direction it is going in. Having been working agency side for years, we’ve always had to regularly demonstrate our worth to clients – so a good starting point is working closely with our clients to get metrics right for them. Whether it’s about making audiences aware, getting them to engage with us and prompting action we have to lean into what is important to each client’s business. Always build from the data you have, to work out what other data you need and what else your key stakeholders want and need to know.
As we look ahead to 2021, how are you blending the benefits that technology brings, with the softer interpersonal skills and network building to truly demonstrate the strategic ability and impact of your team?
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