Like many businesses, VMA Group is experiencing rapid growth in Asia-Pacific. We opened new offices in Hong Kong and Singapore in 2011 and in Sydney in 2012.
To celebrate the launch of the Australian business, we held several events in Sydney including a Head of Corporate Affairs breakfast session where we discussed what the future might hold for the communication profession, with a special focus on the Australian market. Here is a summary of the ideas, thoughts and predictions of the group.
1. In the next 5 years we’re going to need to deliver more sophisticated communications to balance ‘social media disruption’
Social media disruption is brought on by the advances in computing, networks, devices and the capabilities they unleash like cloud computing and data analytics. Deloitte describes the impact of these innovations as digital disruption and see it as a measure of how much the arrival of new digital technologies will drive change for business, the economy and society as a whole.
According to Deloitte’s research, social media services are powerful tools for developing online communities that can help to reinforce and grow a business. The reach and power of brands is also amplified when customers use these networks to discuss products or share their buying and service experiences. And let’s not forget the huge employee collaboration benefits that tools like Yammer can afford businesses internally.
The industries most expected to face both significant and imminent disruption by digital include finance, retail trade, arts and recreation, professional services and information, media and telecommunications
2. We’re going to need to speak up more and be more willing to speak the truth to our CEOs, especially when times aren’t good
I don’t think anyone in business today doesn’t realize that it’s one of the most difficult times for leaders in living history. It’s especially important that communicators don’t get trapped in their silos, and many felt this was the moment to really ‘act as an outsider’ within your business. This will provide you with the credibility to act as a consultant and give you the perspective needed to help guide leaders. Two ways to get started:
Join internal committees today, don’t wait for a crisis to hit and then be the last one consulted on issues – by then you’re not relevant to the process.
• Send your CEO news clippings from around the world of issues that could affect your organization.
A recent Communication ROI study from Towers Watson states that internal communicators need ‘to be able to position themselves to succeed in an uncertain future, employers need internal communication programs that are courageous, innovative and disciplined’.
3. There will be a higher responsibility for distilling the brand story and managing the business’s reputation
Reputation is a company’s crown jewel and its key asset needs to be managed carefully. CEOs are looking to communication managers to step up to the challenge of understanding and coordinating all the levers – media, stakeholders and NGOs – that influence reputation.
Managing business reputation effectively is becoming one of the fastest growing skill sets required for communicators, today and into the future. Being able to comfortably advise an executive across the business agenda. Some communicators are going so far as to remove the use of ‘PR’ and use ‘reputation management’ as the term for what they do.
4. Speak the language of business
Speaking the language of business in a broader context beyond communication is now imperative and we should all consider coaching and consulting as core skills. This certainly rings true from the market’s response, with VMA Group seeing a higher number of communicators obtaining MBAs.
As outlined earlier, one communicator at this breakfast spoke about sending their CEO clippings of issues from around the world, providing that senior leader with an overview of what’s happening in the market that could impact on their sector and organization.
5. We need to be solely responsible for interpreting the brand and will need to become risk management experts
For a lot of sectors, especially financial services, the past half-decade could be coined the age of the ‘fear factor’, where regulatory issues have placed organizations squarely in the eye of the media storm. A good communicator knows that a crisis can be an opportunity to really demonstrate our worth, especially when it comes to issue management.
Additionally, with so much competing noise in the market place, there is an opportunity for communicators to step forward beyond what has been their traditional approach to brand management (also usually owned by marketing) – and advise strategically.
6. Embrace change – it’s here to stay
There is an increasing recognition that the current level of change we’ve been experiencing in the world’s economic climate, is simply not going to evaporate – and as communicators we need to embrace it. We need to adapt to situations, rather than changing.
The positive narrative around adaption is going to be required more so than ever before, and an expectation that change is now an opportunity will increasingly become a skill for communicators globally.
So what does this mean from a careers perspective?
- Internal communications and digital communications are still areas of rapid growth
- Fixed term and contract positions are on the rise
- Financial Services still have the bulk of communications roles
- More communication professionals are seeking better overall business understanding – through MBAs for example
- More standardization for corporate affairs teams – with clearer reporting lines to the Board or CEO
In a rapidly changing economic environment – where most markets feel lackluster, communicators are looking more closely at exactly what skills, tools and coaching is required to really drive them and their careers forward. These six areas, identified by myself and the attendees of the Australia session would advise, are just the start.
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