comms teams need generalists and specialist-generalists

 

Some more thoughts on what makes the ideal comms team discussion.

by Dan Slee

There was a great Twitter chat about the ideal comms team and what it looks like via comms2point0.

Almost 80 people took part and props to Ben Capper and Darren Caveney for navigating the discussion.

There was some really good points and you can find a storify here and some conclusions from Ben too.

One post from Simon Hope really caught my eye. Is the comms specialist dead? he asks. Do we need to be generalists? You can read it here.  

He makes the point that most people join a team with a specialism whether that’s marketing, media relations or social media. However, thinning teams means that people have to turn their hands at a whole range of different things.

But what skills does a comms team need? I’ve blogged about the 40 skills I think comms teams will need. I won't repeat them here but they range from everything from writing a press release to using data.  Just looking at the broad spread of the list it’s apparent that not everyone is going to have all of them. You just can’t.

So, does that mean we should have specialists? Not really. I've long argued that we should share the digital sweets. 

The aim to have generalists is a good one. But the reality is that some people will still specialise and actually, it’s right that there should be some space so flair should be encouraged.

Looking back, I worked in a team some of whose members in 2008 did not want to learn about social media at all. So, I was defacto spec ialist. I know of one comms person who was sidelined from making videos, crazily, because they were too good at them. The head of comms wanted to forcibly share the sweets. His colleagues didn’t want to learn new skills and the officer in frustration left.

You can aim to have generalists. But there needs to be some allowance to specialise because it's going to happen anyway. So, a kind of generalist and specialist-generalist. What that will look like in your team is going to be different from another.

But what I believe you must have is a team that has set of core skills and attitudes:

  • you need to know traditional and digital and know when to best deploy them.

  • you need to know where the answers are if you don’t.

  • you need to know how networks work.

  • you need to embrace change.

  • you need to be able to experiment.

  • you need to collaborate.

  • you need to know what comms you are doing will change things for the better

  • you need to know how to measure the change for the better.

  • you need to ask ‘why?’ a lot, say ‘no’ too and be supported in that.


Sound straightforward? In theory it is. In practice, not so. Teams that find a way to do all that prosper and are valued. Teams that don’t wither on the vine.

Dan Slee is co-founder of comms2point0.

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