For communications leaders in the year ahead, what will be the most valuable skill you bring to the table?
For the Esther-Mireya Tejeda, the chief marketing and communications leader for SoundExchange, the quality that will most define a successful communicator in the months ahead is “impeccable judgment.” No small task for leaders that face rapid change and plenty of uncertainty heading into yet another year of crises.
As we get ready for Communications Week, Nov. 15-19, we’re asking members of our Advisory Board to share insights into our theme for 2021: transformation. Here’s what Tejeda had to say about the challenges and opportunities that await PR and communications pros in 2021 and beyond:
1. What’s the biggest transformation that is happening in communications today?
Tejeda: “Communications has become the strategic fuel of many organizations, often serving as a compass, helping organizations navigate through charged, turbulent and unclear business situations for which there are no precedents. In this enhanced role, communicators have become strategic advisors to CEOs, tapping into the ever-broadening toolbox that now includes business and growth strategy, customer journey and experience, employee engagement, market research and listening, crisis and issues management, social media and content creation, and so much more.”
2. What will be the most important skill/competency for comms pros of the future?
Tejeda: “Impeccable judgement. Society is demanding accountability and transparency from businesses in a way that we have never before seen.
Communicators are making critical decisions that can make or break an organization’s reputation and, therefore, its bottom line. Being tapped in and engaged with core audiences and stakeholders, understanding their expectations of the organization, and providing sound strategic counsel that helps the organization meet those expectations is arguably the most critical communications function today.”
3. How can communicators hold onto the increased role they’ve gained during the pandemic?
Tejeda: “Organizations that were successful and well-positioned in yesterday’s world are dealing with a new set of rules and expectations today. Maintaining the status quo is certainly the path to failure.
Businesses need smart, strategic and often bold communications and marketing strategy to reimagine their organizations and align with their customers, investors, and stakeholders in ways that are different and often much deeper than before. Communicators are uniquely positioned to lead these business transformations, and to level-up organizations to meet the increasing demands of stakeholders.”
4. What’s the biggest challenge facing communicators in the year ahead?
Tejeda: “Continued uncertainty coupled with an even more greatly divided country is the single biggest challenge facing communicators, and frankly all business leaders, in the year ahead.
The country is divided on issues of race and ethnicity, gender identity, the COVID-19 pandemic and vaccination, immigration, and the “return to office,” to name just a few. Leaders everywhere are grappling with what to do, when to do it, and how to do it amidst a divided constituency. In order to weather some of the storms, communicators must be committed listeners who truly engage the employees, customers, and stakeholders we serve.
Also, we have to be willing to take some punches—because there will absolutely be punches.”
5. What’s your No.1 piece of advice for young PR pros trying to get their start?
Tejeda: “Communications has always been a dynamic business to be in, but it is exponentially more challenging, nuanced and complex today than ever.
As a young communications pro, come ready to work hard, ask questions and get comfortable with rapid change. Be open to learning new things, and reimagining things you may already know how to do, because the discipline is changing along with the world. Successful communications leaders of tomorrow will be those who can flex easily and help steer organizations through the storms.”