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Communications 101 – what are five things all communication professionals should do?

1. Be adaptable: Communications is one of the most flexible and evolving professions today.  A good communications expert needs to be able to create great content, identify the right channel to reach the chosen audience at the same time as knowing how to mitigate or manage a crisis – at its heart PR is all about understanding your audience and how best to reach them with your story.

2. Be one step ahead. Staying on your toes, being inquisitive and aware of what information is reaching and influencing your audience is critical.  As we know technology continues to change the world exponentially, but it is the effect that it is now having on behaviour which matter to a communications professional.  For example in financial services we see peer-to-peer recommendations can be as effective as professional advice, so how should financial product providers adapt their engagement programmes?

3. Be friendly. It may sound obvious but connections are important and I always think it’s worth being as friendly and open as possible to everyone you meet in your career.  Everyone has an interesting story to tell if you are listening. Networking is particularly important for communication professionals and the key to this is not just doing the talking, but asking the right questions and really listening to the answers.  That conversation you had last week – who knows where it might lead?

4. Be willing to challenge.  In communications our job is to understand the pulse of society (something today’s politicians are only just starting to grapple with now). In doing so, we can genuinely be the gatekeeper of corporate ethics for the companies we represent.  Sometimes it is a lonely job when your insight is telling you one thing but the company is saying something else.  The PR or communications experts need to be scanning the horizon for changes in that pulse, understand how those might affect the company and importantly, be willing to speak out to kick start cultural change in the company’s behaviour if needed.  It’s ‘always been done like that’ should never be a barrier

5. Don’t be afraid of rejection.  I learnt very early on that to work in communications you need a thick skin and bravery.  Whether it is a journalists who doesn’t want to hear your story; a client rejecting your idea or a client who simply doesn’t want to hear what you have the say -you have to learn from it.  Pause, don’t stop.  Decide how to move forward, regroup around the objective or outcome you are seeking, review other options and then make your next move.