Many students who are interested in pursuing a career in strategic communication ask, “What can I do in order to be successful in my internship?” or “What skills do I need by the time I graduate?” The answers often depend on the specific role. However, employers expect job-seekers to demonstrate several general transferable skills:
- Writing ability: Writing is at the center of what many strategic communication professionals do. They might be required to write a press release, develop marketing copy, create an annual report, or manage a Twitter account. Regardless of the specific task, writing clear, concise, and relatable messages is a vital skill in any communication-related role. To quote from an interview with Carol Merry, senior vice president of corporate communication at Fahlgren Mortine, one of the nation’s largest independent marketing and communications agencies:
“Writing has defined my career. Being able to write well has led to opportunities and provided hard-to-achieve credibility with executive management, clients, legal partners, and others. Today’s corporate communications practitioners need to be able to sift through material to develop clear, crisp communications. The written word has not been abandoned in the business world.” (C. Merry, personal communication, May 27, 2016).
- Oral communication/presentation skills: Oral communication or skill in public speaking is critical to achieving success in a strategic communication career. You may have to deliver a presentation to pitch new business to a potential client or discuss campaign ideas and results with a current client. Successful presentations demonstrate a solid understanding of how to connect with the audience in a compelling and persuasive manner.
- Analytic ability: Strategic communicators use analytic skills to examine industry trends, audiences, and message design. They also use these skills to manage organizational needs, solve complex problems, conduct research, come up with creative ideas and communication tactics, and conceptualize realistic and effective messaging goals. They also may use metric-driven programs such as Google Analytics or Kissmetrics.
- Ability to work under pressure: Strategic communication often involves working against tight deadlines and being expected to deliver results under pressure. In the event of a crisis or a stressful organizational situation, you want to be able to craft an effective response and shape the narrative going forward. In a less negative situation, such as promoting the grand opening of a store, you will still need to create messages quickly in order to get them out to audiences.
- Proactive mindset: Many people think that strategic communication is reactive because they associate it with crisis communication. But many areas of strategic communication are proactive; that is, they involve finding unique opportunities to communicate with key audiences before competitors do. Having a proactive mindset will help you distinguish your messages from the thousands of others that your audiences encounter daily.
- Adaptability: Work schedules sometimes may change abruptly in order to meet the needs of an organization. You might be called on to be part of a project at the last minute. Having an open mind and being ready to help when needed will set you apart from others who are not as flexible.
- Diverse talents: Being able to perform diverse tasks will make you more marketable as a communication professional, whether you’re asked to develop an infographic for a brochure, create a video for a marketing campaign, deliver a presentation to a client, or conduct a focus group for market research. Instead of pigeonholing your professional growth, learn as much as possible to leverage your personal brand, and then develop a specialty in something that interests you.
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