Strategic Communications Leaders. Are You One?

1. Self-aware: They understand how their role fits within the organization.
Today’s communications professionals understand the interconnectedness of the marketing, advertising, content, and strategy functions of their organization, including how they fit in among them. Aligning communications with other aspects of the business allows them to amplify everyone’s efforts, not just their own.
2. Data-driven: They use data to drive everyday decision making.
Communications without data is like skipping sunscreen: It’s totally feasible, but not recommended and will soon become a thing of the past. Without data or metrics, you are essentially executing old-guard communications that doesn’t position you for leadership or improve your value. Tracking results and gathering data enables you to make informed, forward-looking decisions — something that effective communications leaders “get” innately.
3. Constructively opinionated: They speak up.
How can we give a voice to clients for whom we work, if we don’t have our own? If we want to lead companies and clients in the right direction, we must speak up. We must build trust by making sound decisions consistently, then develop our own voices — without giving into our smaller selves and cowering in the corner. Get really good at voicing your opinion via thought leadership opportunities, and you could even influence public opinion!
4. Thoughtful: communications leaders plan with purpose and think outside the box.
Leaders don’t just do things to check a box off a list. They critically think about why they are doing something before aiming and firing. I have data to support that when you send a thoughtful, targeted story that gets a journalist 50% of the way there, your shot at landing that story increases exponentially. This is a big boost, and it illustrates how spending a little more time on your work in the beginning pays off.
5. Brave: They aren’t afraid of getting fired or finding a new role elsewhere.
If you’re working for someone who is demanding you do arbitrary tasks with no foresight, then you should question whether or not your workplace is a fit. This “activity-based approach to communications is one of the reasons the industry is criticized — it implies to others that we’re all tactics and no strategy.
You can’t be afraid to point out fault, even if the thought of doing so is scary. In a nutshell: If the agency you work for isn’t being strategic and you continue to work there, your reputation is on the line just as much as the agency’s. And we all know a leader doesn’t hand over the reins to their personal brand or reputation.
Continue to speak up, take charge, and forge your way at companies where leadership and innovation are encouraged. Fulfilling tasks and assignments without a greater purpose is just-plain boring anyways. (And you are far from boring.)