As I reflected on what to share in this blog post that would be most helpful to those reading I was drawn to the phrase ‘Communicator of the Year.’ I confess to being a student of industry awards. I’m often inspired by the campaigns, the people, the moments that make these awards. In 2015, Pete Frates won the Communicator of the Year award for sharing his ALS struggle with the world mobilizing millions of people to participate in the Ice Bucket Challenge. I was in the room the night his mother received the award on his behalf at the annual awards dinner. There was not a dry eye in the room after she finished speaking. She said many things that night, but what has always stuck with me was the extent Pete Frates went to share his story. The result was astounding on all levels. Pete Frates did not have a fancy PR firm on retainer. He simply shared his story. As you think about your career as a communicator, I encourage you to set some guiding principles for your career by forcing yourself to regularly do these things.
- Be a storyteller. Communications is a broad field. Maybe your career goal is to head up PR for a Fortune 100 company, in which case your audience is likely to be consumers, the board of directors and investors. Others may seek a career in non-profit communications. Regardless of your specialization you must have a passion for storytelling, which brings me to my next point.
- Find your subject-matter expertise. This is a big one and don't worry, you don’t have to go at it alone. As a communications professional you will have to find the best words and tactics to get your message out. Half the battle is knowing what you don’t know and bringing in subject matter experts bridge any gaps.
- Know what’s next. In my strategic communication client work, I often have to pause and reflect on how putting out information will be received in various scenarios. I recently had a client that wanted to lean in on the notion of civil discourse in the country. This sounds good, right? The issue was timing. They wanted to roll this out before the election. We cautioned against it. In the end we were right and they were able to capitalize on the mood of the country post-election, without sounding too tone deaf and kumbaya.
- Define the win. This differs from client to client and is oftentimes not what you would think. There are clients who define a win as number of positive stories placed. Others may be more nuanced and I’ll give a case-study like example. A global nutrition company is under attack by a short seller trying to drive the company out of business. The short seller released a documentary, which presented a one-sided depiction of the company. Your mandate is to tell the company’s positive story and fight back against misperceptions and accusations. You do this by launching a truth campaign with the goal of fighting back against each and every accusation and proactively telling the positive story. Through a microsite, social media content, real-time social media monitoring, rapid response and engaging with elites, you win because you were able to tell the company’s side of the story to combat misperceptions.
- Embrace digital/tech/social. Perhaps the most important piece of advice I can give and one that I have personally experienced over the years as print media has evolved to digital media and digital to social media. I encourage everyone to learn how to protect yourself from obsolete skill sets by focusing on digital and technology trends. My career started in the most traditional way. I aspired to be a broadcast journalist but made lots of twists and turns and today am largely considered a digital communications expert. This happened because I curiously embraced trends, never backing down from new ways to get a message out.
About Bianca Prade
Bianca Prade is a Vice President in SKDKnickerbocker’s public affairs and strategic communications practice. Bianca’s work has led to several awards, including PR Newswire's 2013 Earnies Awards and PR News' Social Media Icon Awards for 2013. In 2011, she was named to PR Week’s "40 Under 40: Ones to Watch" list. She has been working in corporate and online communications for nearly 20 years, most recently as Vice President of Digital Strategy for the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity. Bianca has also held top-level digital strategy positions at competitive companies and digital firms. Bianca graduated with a B.A. in English from the University of Maryland at College Park and a M.A. in interactive communications from American University. Bianca has also completed the Leadership for Extraordinary Performance Program and the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business.
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