Guest Post by Ken Jacobs
When I was growing up in the world of PR, many communicators who were considered successful were primarily doers.
Now, however, I believe communicators must truly be leaders to be effective.
There are a number of similarities between the skills that have always been required for effective leadership and those needed to be a successful communications practitioner today:
1. Understand Influence
If leaders are “those who have followers,” it’s clear that one can’t be a leader unless one understands and appropriately applies the concept of influence.
It’s as simple as, “No influence, no followers. No followers, you’re not a leader.”
To be successful, there are two ways in which today’s communications leader must understand and apply influence. The first is the role of influence in communications today. The second is the critical need for the communicator to have influence among key decision-makers in her or his organization.
Without this, how can they be sure that said organization is strategically using all the tools available under the rubric of “PR/Communications” today? How can they possibly hope that they, and their departments, are communicating effectively as possible on their organization’s behalf?
2. Build Trust
Trust has always been a core leadership skill because people only follow those they trust. Fast forward to an age where trust in media, government, and organizations has seriously eroded. It’s in this challenging environment that communicators must build greater trust between their organizations and media, stakeholders, influencers, and communities to be effective.
It’s the communicators’ responsibility to help their organization’s leadership understand the critical importance of trust today.
It starts with explaining the basic concept that trust can take time to build, but can be eroded in a nanosecond, and once that happens, takes years to win back.
Effective communicators must have the guts to say to their leaders, when questionable actions are being discussed, “I understand why you might want to do that, but we must consider how this might negatively affect the trust that various groups have in us, and if this were to be diminished, how that will affect our ability to achieve our strategic goals.”
3. See What Comes After What Comes Next
This skill has always been a leadership prerequisite. Leaders have always had to be great prognosticators to be effective, so that they could help their companies strategically plan for a future that wasn’t yet clear.
Netflix’s* leadership has done this time and time again. They realized what was wrong with the Blockbuster Video model and enabled people to get their movies on disc and mailed to their homes. That killed Blockbuster. Next, they understood the value of streaming and allowed their customers to get entertainment this way. Not satisfied with that, they’re now working to be perceived as an entertainment creator by offering new, highly desirable programming like “House of Cards,” “Orange is the New Black,” and the revived “Arrested Development.”
In the same vein, it’s the communicator who’s always looking around the corner who’ll help their organization get and stay ahead.
A few years back, there were communicators who were so focused on the present, they weren’t heeding those speaking about the importance of communications measurement, the impact of mobile communications and mobile marketing, or the value of creating content that consumers wished to upload and share.
I don’t believe you’ll find too many of them with key communications roles today. But their peers who did so are not just surviving, but thriving in a communications environment where seeing what’s ahead is everything.
4. Listen Far More Than They Talk
Surprised that I’m suggesting that both leaders and communicators must do this to be effective? I’m certain that those who get this ratio right are far more successful in achieving desired outcomes than those who don’t.
As I’ve posted before, if leaders want to be effective, their potential followers must connect their values to those of the organization. That only happens when the leader understands these followers’ world views, desires, and dreams, for themselves, and yes, for their organizations.
It’s critical for communicators too, whether handling internal, external communications, or both. That’s because they play a unique role between their organization and its employees, its consumers, influencers, stakeholders and stockholders, as well as the media which cover it.
While the communicator’s role is to communicate their organization’s leadership’s views to those audiences, their first step and perhaps most important job, is to listen to what these groups are saying. Next, they must report it back to their organizations so that policies and initiatives can be created that result in mutually beneficial outcomes.
But it all starts with listening.
So, dear communicator, what are you doing to shift from doer to leader? I’d love to hear your perspective in the comments below.
*Hat tip to Lisa Gerber of Big Leap Creative for suggesting Netflix as a great example of a forward-looking organization.
Image: chrisperriman via Flickr, CC 2.0
Ken Jacobs, ACC, CPC, is a certified professional coach, and the principal of Jacobs Executive Coaching, which helps corporate communications, public relations, marketing and advertising leaders and executives achieve and surpass their goals. You can find him at www.jacobscomm.com, www.jacobsexecutivecoaching.com, @KensViews, or on LinkedIn.
KensViews See my humungous response below! GiniDietrich lisagerber dbreakenridge Howie Goldfarb
Howie Goldfarb First of all, no offense taken at the reading of very few blog posts – I was just talking with geoffliving yesterday about how my own blog consumption has gone down. So all good there. :)
You have the right to your opinion, Howie, but so do I (and everyone else). And here’s my take on some of your points:
1. Re: influence marketing – yes, there is absolutely a part of it that involves paid compensation. But just because you think they don’t have “enough” Twitter followers etc. doesn’t mean that they are not valued influencers to the brand in question. The only way you could know that definitively is if you were looking over their shoulders at their planning and intel. Do you? To follow on from that, unless you are sitting and doing significant analysis of their influence, you really have no idea as to what’s going on. So that’s just your opinion, not “research.”
2. I agree with you that # of followers is not necessarily a predictor of influence. But pretty much every single respected influencer platform does include reach as a factor. I’ve been working with traackr for several months on a really cool project, and I’ve also used their software over the years. And reach (which is based on follower #s) is absolutely a factor.
3. In my opinion, it is a huge – HUGE – mistake to assume that just because Brian (whom I know, respect and like), Chris (whom I’ve met, don’t really know, but respect and like), and/or any of the other “big name influencers” don’t impact you, the same holds true for a larger subset of the population. That is simply generalizing based on your opinion and not much else. I can tell you from my first-hand experience in various forums that these folks are not only greatly respected, but continue to wield a LOT of influence where it matters – at the cash register.
Thanks for your thoughtful reply, Howie Goldfarb . You’ve given us all much to think about vis-a-vis influence. I don’t know if our friends GiniDietrich shonali lisagerber dbreakenridge use paid influence marketing or not, but I think of them as influential…no?
Great post Ken!
I agree with it all except your part on Influence. Major companies now (and I blogged about this) are doing paid influence marketing. They are paying people like Daniel Newman for example to write blog posts promoting their brand (IBM, Dell, Ricoh are all paying him). I have found a ton of this with IBM’s Social Business Division and it is led by Amber Armstrong (IBM EMployee). The problem is I go to these people’s twitter accounts and it seems they were usually chosen for their follower count. But when I look at the followers and what they do…..they have ZERO…seriously ZERO retweets or favorites of their posts. I see zero comments on comment enabled blog posts. I see ZERO influence.
So yes you need followers. But a person with 1 follower who reacts is way more influential than someone with a million followers who only gets 300 responses. So to me paid advertising is ridiculously more efficient and a higher ROI than using these people for influence.
Just this week Social Media Examiner did a post on how to improve engagement with video on Brand Pages. The first example was a Mr. Bean video. The video got about 1600 Likes. But they failed to explain Mr. Bean has 62 million fans on Facebook which means the engagement was zero. I calculated 0.02%.
This is why Coke pretty much abandons their facebook page when they dont have a big sponsored event going on (like the world cup) Even Celebs I am finding have zero infuence.
Now not sure if this is a social media thing or a people thing. I use social media about 50% less these days than I did. I read so few blog posts (maybe 5-10 a week…sorry Shonali !) and even stopped blogging myself (I am not a content marketer and for 99% of content marketers the tactic is failing). For social I am now 70% snapchat 28% twitter and 2% facebook.
My point is I think the glow of social being new and influence are over. I have not been able to find any example of social media influence for over a year not even the ‘rock stars’ have any. Go check out Solis, Brogan etc on the networks. They have no influence anymore.
Sorry for the long winded blogpost. But just sharing mt research. Cheers!