Six skills you need to become a communications superhero
We may look back in years to come and say the 2020s was the era of the communications superhero.
I see them every day. They are a stunning breed of socially-aware, business-savvy truth-tellers and problem solvers. They continually add value to the board rooms, corporate leaders and organisations they support, often quietly and from behind the scenes.
These unassuming superheroes work 24/7 to build and protect reputation. And their job is getting tougher. Organisations and their leaders are facing greater public scrutiny than ever before. Individuals, consumers, investors and other stakeholders have higher expectations, a stronger voice and, empowered by digital platforms, they are quicker than ever to broadcast their views. They no longer rely on governments and regulators to get things right – they expect organisations to deliver solid results while leading on critical issues such as climate change, gender diversity and equality.
The combination of these highly informed, increasingly vocal stakeholders with the exponential increase in content consumption and the convergence of social and traditional media means stories that can either swamp or buoy a business and its reputation are being generated at a greater pace and intensity than ever before.
So what makes a communications superhero? They share the following six core skills that enable them to build social capital and deftly navigate reputational challenges.
Social awareness. Our superheroes are plugged into what’s happening. They scan the news, follow key commentators, understand current social pressures and political agendas and identify emerging issues. They know how social forces can negatively affect an organisation and, more importantly, what an organisation needs to do to positively and meaningfully address the societal concerns that their stakeholders care about.
Stakeholder lens. Closely coupled with social awareness is the stakeholder lens through which our superheroes monitor issues. It is their x-ray vision. They understand who are the people that matter most, and what matters most to them. They help organisations see things through the eyes of these stakeholders and understand how to connect with and engage them through relevant, timely and authentic communications.
Business acumen. Communications superheroes have an innate understanding of what makes the business tick. They know what drives growth and enables success, as well as the risks that can limit them. They can explain strategy and provide facts that support performance in simple and transparent language that removes complexity and helps build understanding, confidence and trust.
Strategic discipline. It takes discipline to develop authentic communications that have integrity and build trust. It requires developing a narrative that is aligned to the organisation’s values and purpose, setting a clear vision, explaining the strategy, transparently communicating environmental, social and community commitments, and continually and consistently reporting factual progress.
Critical thinking. Our superheroes are critical thinkers. They apply both intellect and imagination to find solutions. They are not afraid to challenge the status quo or come up with bold ideas. They maintain an independent view, speak truth to power, and earn the position of being a trusted advisor who can influence and effect change.
Robust resilience. Our superheroes are working in a fast-moving, 24/7 news cycle. They have the robustness to face challenges and the resilience needed to get things back on an even keel once an issue or crisis has passed. To do this, they rapidly synthesise information from a range of sources, simplify the complex, confront difficult situations and adapt to the situation at hand. They have the confidence to make informed judgments and set a clear path forward, while maintaining calm and building confidence.
We are always on the lookout for superheroes capable of leaping a reputational crisis in a single bound to join our team. Communications superpowers required. Tights and cape optional.