I’m not part of the online debate about who is or is not a “social-media expert.” I leave that topic to the leaders of the echo chamber. I real life, no one really cares.
What clients and employers care about is how we use the tools of communication to make their organizations more successful. Clients and employers expect us to understand the business proposition. The C-level folks look to us to help change attitudes and behaviors, because that’s what drives the bottom line.
Pardon me for stating the obvious, but I’m not the only one so compelled.
In her post yesterday at Altitude, Amber Naslund also got back to basics. I’m joining the chorus today just to make sure my readers don’t forget this simple and obvious concept: It’s about business.
I read Amber’s post during our first faculty meeting of 2010 and was struck by how her advice mirrored the points our school’s director was making in his opening remarks. (And you thought multitasking didn’t work!) To better prepare students for careers in a tough economy, Jeff Fruit said, we gotta broaden the students’ skill sets, to be sure. But we also must help them understand how those skills fit the business/entrepreneurial environment of our 2.0 world. We must create a business mindset.
These aren’t things you often hear in journalism schools. And judging from Amber’s post, we don’t hear them enough in SM circles, either.
Under the subhead, “What we need desperately,” Amber offers a list of skills and knowledge fundamental to success in PR, marketing, social media — and business. Every item on her list, 9 in all, should be obvious to any professional communicator. But if they were, I’m guessing Amber wouldn’t have written the post.
Amber says too many in the “SM expert” world focus on the tactics of the trade and “new shiny objects.” At the same time, many of them can’t write clear, coherent sentences or follow the rules of grammar and punctuation. On the business side, too many SMers don’t understand basic business planning and budgeting. And those who do grasp the business proposition often can’t explain it to others.
This one really got me: (We desperately need) “People who know how to communicate clearly, collaborate on projects, and manage people positively.”
Is it really that bad out there? I work in the ivory tower of academe, so it would be easy to fall out of touch with the real world. I hope I haven’t, but Amber’s post has me wondering just how far the the so-called marketing and PR experts have strayed from the fundamentals.
When a prospective student asks me what it takes to succeed in PR, I present a short list. To succeed in PR you must:
- think clearly and critically.
- be an excellent communicator, both written and verbal.
- understand business from management’s perspective.
Sure, there’s a lot more to PR. Good listening skills are critical. So is the ability to find and organize information. But in the end, we’re communication experts. It’s the unique skill we bring to the table, and to Amber’s point, we’d better know how to translate it into the business model.
It troubles me that a leading blogger like Amber — and now an also-ran like me — feel the need to state the obvious. But apparently we must.