Professional Development for Communicators

Competence In Public Communication Requires A Skill Set That Needs Constant Updating.

By Thomas J. Roach

A lot is implied by the word “professional,” but one of its strongest connotative meanings is “expert.” In the 20th century, a college education with a degree in English, journalism, public relations or advertising made one a communication expert for life.

Today these degrees provide essential foundational knowledge and skills, but competence in public communication requires a skill set that needs constant updating.

For letters and speeches we organize our thoughts around theses, introductions, bodies, and conclusions. For news outlets we generate lead sentences and organize information into the inverted pyramid. While these skills are still important, they covered almost everything we did 20 years ago, but they represent only a fraction of our communication output today.

Public relations, advertising and marketing are leading the way as advancements in communication technology create new media for interacting with business publics. Every communication executive needs to be aware of new opportunities to send and receive messages, and everyone who is responsible for actually generating and sending messages has to be proficient at using the new media.

First Responsibility

This responsibility breaks down into two objectives for departments or individuals responsible for business communication objectives. The first responsibility is to allocate resources to keep the communication staff up to date.

Hiring processes should be upgraded to insure that new communication employees are ready to employ the full range of traditional and contemporary media to research publics and generate and send messages.

Budgets need to account for conferences, seminars and training opportunities for current communication employees. Communication managers need to benchmark peer communicators, and maintain communication objectives and methods that will lead or at least stay abreast of the competition.  

Second Responsibility

The second responsibility is informing and training associates outside of the communication department so they can employ the most effective communication technology and methods as they interface with their coworkers, customers and the community.

This involves adding communication skills to job descriptions, hiring processes, and the bonus system. It also will require ongoing education and training. Ideally it would be a good idea to send all exempt employees to a yearly communication training retreat.

Minimally, the communication staff can include articles about communication on company web pages, in employee publications and in emails. Communication training can also be scheduled as part of larger management training events.  

Broad Range of Cultures

The aggregates industry is made up of a broad range of business cultures from small quarries to large conglomerates. Some operations have no one job dedicated to managing communication, some may use consultants, and some have large staffs that include lobbyists, publicists, internal communication managers, web page and social media specialists, and large marketing and advertising teams.

One job responsibility that everyone can create might be called Communication Development. Whether it is one of many responsibilities for a manager in a small company or a training staff in a large company, someone needs to have the responsibility of monitoring communication opportunities, keeping the rest of the organization informed, and providing training opportunities for key communicators.

The company getting the best feedback from employees, customers and the community will be able to make the most desirable work environment, products and services. The company communicating most effectively through the changing media environment will attract the best members of the workforce, lure the most customers, and reap the greatest profits.

Consider how communication technology has changed your lifestyle. How long can you go without your cell phone? What percent of interaction with your children, friends and coworkers is through email, texting and Facebook? What was your communication profile ten years ago, and what might it look like 10 years from today?

All of us as consumers and citizens are constantly evolving with new communication opportunities. Businesses need to understand that staying ahead of the communication curve is not an interesting experiment; it is a matter of survival.

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