to specialise or not to specialise… that is the question

It's an interesting dilemma for a comms professional - is it best to specialise or to generalise? Or do you need to be a generalist with some specialisms?

by Nicky Speed

‘Press Officer needed to manage the media and write lively copy’ the job advert headline read. Really, is that all you’re asking for? Do those jobs actually exist anymore? To have the luxury of having such a big communications team to be able to specialise sounds great in theory – but in the digital age and more demands placed on communications people, is that realistic?

Tweeters, bloggers, and the social media phenomenon –they were all unheard of a decade ago and are changing the face of the news media and how we digest news. And as we all know, it’s dramatically changing the face of PR.

Gone are the days of merely writing a press release and faxing or posting it out to hundreds of media contacts that will never use it. PR involves so much more than that, and I’d say that media relations is just a small part of the work we do in communications department. For smaller or one-man-band teams, we are generally everything from adviser, event organiser and digital guru to blogger, internal engagement officer and stakeholder relations manager.

This got me thinking, can comms people really afford to specialise? By having such niche roles, do we run the risk of being pigeon-holed and left behind the times? Whilst the idea of having more focus on a particular area may seem appealing in theory, in reality and today’s times of budget cuts, I believe that up-skilling and multi-tasking is essential for survival in the comms world. And are we actually doing these staff members an injustice and stopping their chances of growth and development by having roles that don’t offer much in the way of expanding skills.

So I’ll leave you with this thought…if you specialise do you become an asset or simply become that bloke on a hot metal newspaper who put the slugs of lead onto the page – a niche job that is no longer needed!

Nicky Speed is Senior Communications Officer at Merseytravel

pic via WikiMedia Commons