As a profession, Corporate Communications is rapidly gaining ground. Businesses are realising that company reputation is as important as having a great product or service out in the market. Reputation is intangible but it is a powerful asset that attracts great talent, builds consumer loyalty, allows businesses to influence stakeholder opinion and helps determine the premium customers are willing to pay. These are great differentiators and businesses are starting to recognise their importance. As a consequence, there never has been a better time than now to think of a career in corporate communications.
Global studies are also reflecting this: the 2015 World PR Report (which can be accessed at holmesreport.com) said that the industry had shown 7% growth in 2014. This is quite phenomenal in an economy that has otherwise remained obstinately sluggish. It further strengthens the fact that a career in corporate communications would be a wise decision.
The profession is also becoming rather cool: some of the most advanced tools in the business are being thrown up by technology in the form of social media and community management, digital and multimedia channels, data-based insights that sharpen messaging and improve outcomes. So, if you’d love to write, communicate and rub shoulders with media, understand the underlying psychology that drives and motivates people, have a handle on business, possess analytical skills and relish organising events, you are already be on course for a career in corporate communications.
What are the most important skills you need to break into the world of corporate communications?
The Global Communication Report 2016 (which can be accessed at holmesreport.com) provides us an insight. The report says, “Writing — which might be considered a ‘price of admission’ ability for a communications department — was ranked as more critical than strategic planning (84%), social media expertise (76%), and multimedia content development (76%) and a long way ahead of things such as business literacy (62%), analytics (62%), research (48%), search engine optimisation (41%), and behavioural science (32%).”
What this indicates are the arrows required in the quiver of a good corporate communications professional.
Aside from being a ‘natural’ at communication, two other things will make it easier to break into the world of corporate communications: a formal education in the profession (along with internship) and a great CV. Let’s look at the two in detail before trying to sum up the qualities you need to be a successful corporate communications professional.
Education and Internships: Given the competition and the opportunities in the field, you may want to consider going beyond a bachelor’s degree by earning a master’s in corporate communications or public relations. India has several institutes like the Xavier’s Institute of Communication (XIC) in Mumbai, the Indian Institute of Mass Communication (IIMC) in Delhi, and the Mudra Institute of Communications, Ahmedabad (MICA). If your course includes subjects such as corporate law, corporate social responsibility, ethics, media, public speaking and business analytics, you’ll have your nose ahead of the rest.
Try and do an internship with a large business before seeking a full-time job, focusing on specific projects that have measurable outcomes. A critical aspect of such an internship is the networking opportunity it provides. Remember to attend industry events, trade fairs related to your business, informal meet-ups of PR and marketing professionals, join the right forums on LinkedIn, be present and be heard at public events and seminars where law and business ethics are discussed — doing this will ensure you create a network of trusted contacts… and, as you will discover, seasoned corporate communications professionals depend a lot on the power, wisdom, goodwill and trust of their networks.
Curriculum vitae (CV): A well-written CV plays an important role in any job interview. However, for a corporate communications professional, it is a specifically important tool that allows you to get a foot into the corporate door. Your CV should clearly and succinctly express your goals, show that you are customer- and client-focused, understand business, have numbers skills, demonstrate that you think outside the box, are a quick learner, a team player, that you are not shy and have a realistic personality. Note that 90% of these traits are not created by a college education. Your CV needs to clearly show your strengths in each of the areas listed here. If you can provide proof for each of these traits, you could be on your way to an exciting and fulfilling career in corporate communications.
There are other qualities that will serve you well in your quest to break into the world of corporate communication:
A lot of what goes on in the field of corporate communications is “feeling” and “gut instinct”. This takes time to not only develop, but also for others to recognise that you have the right attitude and an appetite for corporate communications. So stay in touch with the people you dream of working with, always ensuring they see a little more of your personality than what is visible in your CV. In other words, prioritise your own PR.
If you love something, it will ultimately show. Traditionally, corporate communications has been subjective — although that is changing now, with technological interventions — and your confidence in your capabilities and love for communication should shine through. Others will notice this.
The world of advertising, marketing, PR and communication are going through dramatic change. We live in a world of technology-mediated communication: mobile applications, real-time systems, instant messaging, blogging, virtual reality devices, video conferencing, immersive experiences, QR codes, social media, hash tags, online surveys, and so on. Stay on top of these technologies because they will become the tools for success. The more you know how to use them, the easier it will be to build a career in corporate communications.
Develop a point of view
People crave insights. So develop insights and a point of view on topics that are important. People remember you when you have a good, independent and well-thought out point of view. This means reading as much as you can about business, culture, food, art, politics, sport, adventure and technology. Stay well-informed by regularly listening to global authorities (use YouTube and TED videos wisely) on topics such as energy, health care, regulatory developments and ethics. Corporate communication is not limited to preaching and proselytising a company vision. Smart communication is about contextualising it – and the only way to do this is to stay well-informed and create a point of view.
Do not underrate the value of remembering faces (and names). Everything else mentioned above will form the bedrock for a strong, long-lasting and enjoyable career in corporate communication. But remembering faces and names will give you that extra edge in the real work of corporate communications.
( Varghese M. Thomas is vice-president — corporate communications at TVS Motor Company Limited )