A mentor of mine used to say that successful people in our industry had a bit of attention deficit disorder, or ADD. What my old friend Jim Dublin was saying is that folks with an innate desire to learn – about anything – are more likely to be effective communications strategists than those who aren’t as naturally curious.
That’s probably true in a lot of industries, come to think of it.
In our world, the leaders aren’t just curious about the world around them; they’re insatiably curious. They devour news from multiple sources daily. They don’t just chuckle at clever ad campaigns; they analyze them and debate how the company is using the campaign to evolve its brand, express a key message or counter a competitive threat. They read deadly-dull legislation on topics like tax policy and breathlessly distill it down to a few talking points for or against. They peruse a magazine or website focused on, say, oil pipelines, and excitedly soak up the basics of something like cathodic protection against corrosion. Fun material for the next mixer, right?
If that leads you to conclude the world of communications strategy isn’t for everyone, I’d have to agree. It’s a nerdy, wonky world. And it’s nothing like what many expect when they hear we are a “PR firm,” where (they wrongly believe) we “marketeers” spend our days flitting from two-hour lunch to happy hour, glad-handing our way through another carefree day “doing PR.” Alas, we are not party planners.
The nerd factor is only one reason our work isn’t for everyone. Once our folks learn enough about an issue or a brand to be useful, then they have to create strategies and tactics to support effective communications and marketing programs. We don’t even call ourselves a PR firm, in fact, because the reality is that we often integrate multiple disciplines, not just PR. We call it strategic communications because it integrates brand strategies, marketing, PR, public affairs, social media, internal communications, thought leadership, community engagement, graphic design and sometimes even crisis communications, depending on the client.
That breadth of capabilities, underpinned by the necessity of extremely high-quality writing, is difficult, no doubt. While we don’t expect everyone who walks in our door to have all of those skills, we are looking for interns who would be excited to dive in and learn. In short, we don’t need someone who wants to become only a copywriter, social media expert, policy analyst or marketing pro. We need folks who are excited about all of those niches and all the others, and about integrating them into compelling, results-driven strategies. A touch of ADD would probably be helpful.
And their college major isn’t a prerequisite. Degree programs like communications and political science are likely sources of talent for us but others like business, marketing and public policy could also produce the right folks.
If you know a college student who might be interested, tell them to give us a call. If they can pull themselves away from their 24/7 news feed for just a few minutes.
- Eric Whittington