In a world spinning ever faster amid constant change, breaking news and evergreen uncertainty, it’s on communicators to go beyond serving as the mindful messenger and ensure a culture of communication exists among all stakeholders across the business, too.
Karen Freberg, a strategic communication professor at the University of Louisville, regularly imparts this wisdom to her students. Among the communications skills that will matter most in the future, Freberg believes that communicators must be able to speak about the needs of their business, from understanding key business concepts to becoming more proactive in adapting our comms strategies to larger business imperitives.
Freberg will be discussing the importance of business fluency on a panel at Ragan’s Future of Communications Conference, the signature event of Ragan’s Communications Week, which begins in New York City on Nov.1-2. Ahead of her panel, Freberg answered a few questions about her passions, her class and what she plans to discuss.
This conversation has been edited for length and clarity.
Ragan: What’s the first thing you do when you start work every morning?
Karen Freberg: I make sure I have my coffee in hand (it’s a food group!) and look over the items I have going on for the day. Even though I work, research, and consult in tech, I am still old school when it comes to laying out my items to do with a hard-cover planner.
Ragan: What comms competencies are you most passionate about seeing our advance in our field?
KF: There are several I am a fan of, but I would say it would be a combination between strategic thinking and creativity. This is where the magic happens in our field. We can bring together science and art to come up with some incredible ideas that can really build relationships, ignite opportunities, and spark new approaches and perspectives.
Ragan: What are your students currently working on?
KF: My students are working on a wide range of different projects at the moment in my PR and social media classes. I am a big believer in providing engaged, experiential and real-world opportunities for my students as they venture into internships and future jobs. We’ve had the opportunity to work with a range of clients this past year, including Sun Tan City and Brown-Forman.
Ragan: What skills and competencies do you consider most important for future communicators?
KF: Business fluency is so important, but I would also add that empathy, digital literacy, creativity, agility, and adaptability are also key skills to have. Being able to be well-rounded and have a balanced perspective on the profession and in society is so important.
Ragan: You’re speaking on a panel about business fluency at Ragan’s future of communications conference. What aspects of speaking the language of business do you think communicators need the most help understanding and strengthening?
KF: I think the biggest issue I am still seeing in the communication profession is not only understanding key business concepts, but driving home the overall impact and significance communication can have on business. Metrics and measurement are two important elements, but there are other points that need to be considered as well that communication can bring to the table, especially for those who work in social media. Perhaps we need to be more proactive and make sure we are communicating what we are doing as well to the business community to come to an understanding. We are all on the same team here, so it’s key for us to be able to understand, respect, and work together.
Ragan: What else are you looking forward to at the conference?
KF: I am very excited to meet fellow colleagues and learn all about the future direction of the field. There is so much change and evolution happening before our very eyes, and I am looking forward to bringing this back to my classes at the University of Louisville.