The identity crisis of the modern communications professional
3 min read

The identity crisis of the modern communications professional

Why going ‘back to basics’ could produce some of your greatest work yet.
The identity crisis of the modern communications professional

I have been a communications professional now for around 15 years. During this time, I’ve been struck by how the skills and the talents of communications professionals vary so greatly. From their educational backgrounds, to their broad spectrum of skill sets, to their vast wells of experience of which to draw upon (both professional and personal), I have found their approaches and insights often different and always interesting.

But this can also lead to a lot of anxiety for the individuals, for colleagues, and for the organization they work for. Let me explain why.

Imagine you are taking a brief to a communications team. Communications Professional #1 has a background in press, meaning their focus is often geared towards getting stories to journalists. They can write up a snappy press release and pitch it to international media. Communications Professional #2 is a whizz at social media. You can only choose one.

Who do you choose?

No one brief is received and codified in the same way. On a good day this can bring new ideas and perspectives. On other days it leaves colleagues bewildered because no response appears to be the same.

Matthew Kobach's tweet above touches on the many areas of what communications professionals could be responsible for on any given day, depending on their company’s expectation of their specific role. This makes it difficult for the organizations to communicate easily because being a communications professional could mean all, some, or none of the areas Kobach mentions.

This can create a host of critical issue triggers:

  • The communications professional is under pressure to deliver outside their skillset and comfort
  • There are confused or unreasonable expectations from colleagues
  • The communications professional struggles to articulate what can and should be done, leading to frustrations and/or a drop in trust - in both directions.
  • The quality of any project diminishes when trying to stretch across all areas of work
  • The communications professional loses confidence and enjoyment in the job; they start sticking to predictable and formulaic ideas
  • Frustrated, non-communications colleagues take communication efforts into their own hands, resulting in messaging, voice, tone, and branding becoming inconsistent

What can be done?

If more communications professionals started from a common ground, many of these problems would reduce or, better still, disappear. It means they (we) need to learn in a different way.

Training on social media, photography, video editing and so on is important, but how those learnings are codified will be different without a better understanding of the fundamentals and indeed the craft of communication.

Put another way, it is about building and establishing a communicator’s mindset.

Right now, many communications professionals are in the top part of the triangle depicted above. That area represents the job title and the deliverables: the expectations from themselves and their organization.

The rest of the triangle is the knowledge base that  provides the strong foundation for high-quality work.

This is where I want to start with Word. Image. Design.

I want to explore with you how to build a communicators mindset. A way of thinking and a way of working that will not only improve the quality of our work, but also make us happier in our jobs.

This site won't be about 'How to gain 10,000 followers on Instagram' or '5 hacks to writing better'.

These are false paths: short-term gains that lead to long-term pain.

Instead, I want to lift-up the hood, so to speak, and look at all the important parts that make the engine of communications move.

But simply observing and knowing the components isn’t enough.

Deepening your process is a way of working and building a mindset. There is a known imperative for communications professionals to be creative, and learning how to better tap into this creativity can be developed and honed, and is a priceless component to producing inspired and unique deliverables.

In this spirit, I’m building this site in public, learning as I go and seeing how writing and sharing might help build the blocks to understanding better, and learning more.

Let’s see where this takes us!


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