Communications is at a crossroads. The profession – and it has become a profession – needs to evolve. Communications started as an artisanal activity, became quite technical and now should grow up and become a much more strategic function. We can all write a communications strategy for somebody else. What we need to do is write a strategy for communications
In the early days a communications director was like a potter. He or she could create a bit of magic by turning a shapeless blob of clay into something shiny and lovely using a creaky old wheel, a bit of glaze and a kiln. This was skilled work, but very local, and repeating the output on a consistent basis was difficult. We might imagine there was a Mad Men era for communications, as there was for advertising. Perhaps Mad Press Agents is already in development at a US cable television network. If it gets made it will show communications as an artisanal activity, but with martinis.
After the age of the artisan and crafting by hand, communications entered the age of the technician. We became professional and technical. We provided media training according to a best-practice formula. We developed models for leader-led internal communications. We spawned channel managers and the channels for them to manage. It worked quite well for a few years. But the age of the technician is coming to an end because all the audiences communicators need to engage have become both too sophisticated and too hard to reach. The old technical tricks are losing their effectiveness.