Why Communication Skills
The communications industry in South Africa has a variety of exciting jobs depending on one’s education, interest and even experience. The positive thing is that unlike in the past when organisations relied on Human Resources departments to do their communication, now more and more organisations are setting up communications departments to handle all their communication.
To be able to unpack the specific communications jobs, we need to understand the role of the communications department within an organisation.
At a strategic level, a communications department must integrate, coordinate, and direct an organisation’s business communications. It does so by developing or crafting intelligent and relevant business communications strategies, policies, directives, procedures, and protocols. It is also responsible for monitoring and measuring the impact of the communications interventions. Furthermore, the communications department must oversee the organisation’s reputation and advise accordingly.
At an operational level, the communications department must see that there is an appropriate communications infrastructure to enable the flow of critical information to all levels and corners of the business.
It must also see that there is appropriate communications capacity and skills to implement the strategies put in place and monitor adherence to communications policies and protocols developed for the business or organisation.
In large organisations with a group and decentralised structures, it is the norm to have a group communications department responsible for developing the communications strategy for the entire business, including the group and the regions or whatever naming convention is given to the decentralised structure. The group communications department would be responsible for coordinating the communication of the decentralised networks to ensure that the business or organisation has a single message or, in communications speak, the company speaks in “one voice.”
The group communications department has an oversight role and, therefore, must ensure that the decentralised structures have the necessary capacity and communications skills to deliver on their communications job while adhering to set communications procedures and protocols. Capacity would include issues such as appropriate budgets and human resources.
This is important as their failure will track back to the group.
Communication skills are essential for the department’s success as skilled people know what they are supposed to be doing. They don’t require much hand-holding and micro-managing. There are numerous ways that communication skills can be brought into the communications department. Through recruitment, experience, and training.
External recruitment is one of the ways that communication skills can be brought in. However, as the saying goes, “what you put in is what you get back”. Therefore, the job specification must be precise regarding the required communication skills. This will guide the shortlisting process and weed out candidates who do not have the right communication skills.
Communication skills are also acquired through experience. Therefore, the department needs to encourage working in teams, which promotes cross-collaboration and knowledge sharing. If this approach is to be successful, the department must do a communications skills assessment to identify skills shortages. Following this exercise, the deliberate pairing of team members must be done to ensure the transfer and sharing of the identified communication skills.
Communications training is another way of capacitating the department with appropriate communication skills. There are a variety of available training techniques, from one day to several days of training or more extended training modules on site at training institutions. There are face-to-face or post the Covid-19 pandemic; online training is no longer frowned upon.
The communications department must have an appropriate structure to ensure proper human resources capacity to deliver on the business communications strategy. According to best practice, the structure follows the communications strategy. But it is not always like this. The communications structure must reflect all the roles or functions required to execute the strategy.
STANDARD COMMUNICATIONS JOBS
Standard communications jobs that would be reflected within the structure include the following:
Communications Manager/Head – Responsible for developing and managing the execution of the communications strategy and monitoring adherence to communications procedures and protocols. This is in addition to managing the department.
External Communications – This role is responsible for crafting and managing communication with external stakeholders, including customers.
Internal Communications – This role is responsible for crafting and managing communication with staff and other internal stakeholders.
Media Relations – This role is responsible for ensuring the flow of information between the organisation and the media as a stakeholder. It is a specialised communication skill not necessarily found in all communicators.
Events Management – Gone are the days when business events were given to PAs. Now businesses understand the importance of events in cementing relationships, launching products, and creating brand awareness. Hence, there would typically be an events management function within the communications structure.
Graphic Designer - Information packaging in various exciting ways is essential within the communications department. Business departments look to the communications department to have graphic designing skills or capacity. This role ensures that the information created is packaged to suit the many communications platforms available to the department.
Social Media - To keep up with current trends, a dedicated social media function is essential in a communications department.
Communications departments are often overlooked when budgets are allocated or receive the crumbs. The argument is that they are not central to the running of the business. The reality is that communications departments require appropriate budget allocation to be effective.
To win this budget war, a communications department must have a communications strategy relevant to the business or the organisation. The strategy must reflect the needs of all the departments and be presented to all the major departments for their input and buy-in. In this way, they will likely support the budget proposal or motivation.