The trend towards integration across communications
Communications teams operating in silos are a thing of the past, and it looks like integration is the future. If you work in corporate communications, public relations, or public affairs today, you likely have had experience working on an integrated team. And if you lead a communications team, I’m sure integration conversations are a recurring agenda item. Hanson Search recently sponsored a panel event with Women in PR and Women in PA focussing on “Leading a Communications Team,” where we debated integration in communications, what’s driving the trend, the benefits and challenges of integration, and, crucially, what employers are really looking for in their communications teams. The top tips across the panel highlighted the importance of collaboration, digital skills, and staying relevant in the rapidly changing, data-driven industry. In my experience, these tips will get you far in many different industries, but they are particularly relevant in communications considering the growing trend towards integration. Specialists, Generalists & Digital Skills There’s been some fluctuation in clients looking for specialists versus generalists on their teams. What we’re seeing now is that clients are looking for people who are experts in an area, but who can also go beyond their expertise - to collaborate and work across teams. Digital skills are one area that clients now expect staff to be equipped with and to use in their roles. Even experienced communications professionals would benefit from topping up their skills today, especially if you don’t have good digital skills. There are many free training tools out there so do a bit of research. You’ll make yourself more competitive. Specialists cannot be replaced by generalists as their skills in their niche are essential to the business, but increasingly clients want specialists to understand how, where, and why they are integrated into the business and where they sit in the overall marketing mix. Strive to be an expert in your market, but make sure you have a broad communications understanding of the business, and aim to collaborate with others. Integration Beyond Communications Integration doesn’t end with public relations and public affairs. What about marketing? Integration is now sought after in many industries, beyond communications. It comes back to knowing your business and being able to understand the wider objectives and work cross-departmentally. That is what will make you stand out and be more successful in your role. Thinking commercially, understanding business objectives and strategy – and where reputation fits into that is also important. People Buy People We all work in the people industry. Most clients know that what they need in the end is a team with the right combination of skills and attributes that align with the company’s goals and values. I advise my clients to prioritise personal attributes and cultural fit over skills. Skills can be taught, and if you hire the right people, you can always train people up to be successful. At the end of the day, it’s up to the management to hire the right people for the business, to understand the culture of the company, and to mentor and motivate the team to ensure everyone is on the same page. It’s up to individuals to keep relevant and skill up. As we heard Hanson Search’s Founder and MD, Alice Weightman, say to the room full of the future leaders in public relations and public affairs, you are in charge of your career. Special thanks to Women in PR & Women in PA for organising this event. And thanks to all the panellists: Nicola Green, Telefónica O2 UK; Lisa Poole, British Gas; Sarah Mason, News UK; Julie Minns, Bell Pottinger; & Alice Weightman, Hanson Search.