I was recently asked by PR News magazine to comment on the traits that “tomorrow’s communicator” will need to be successful. That was an easy one: I believe tomorrow’s communicator will need to be adaptable, flexible, versatile and resourceful. That’s because the future of communications can be summed up in one word: Change.
One thing I’ve learned in my 30+ years of running this agency is that the moment you think you can relax, naively believing that there’s nothing but smooth sailing ahead, is the moment you can expect a big (and almost always unpleasant) surprise.
Smart companies know this all too well. Just as one of my favorite modern-day philosophers, Ferris Bueller, told us, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” The same is true of our business processes and practices – what worked so well even a few short years ago might be holding you back from achieving greater success. You’ve got to “stop and look around,” as Ferris told us, in order to see what’s working, and then assess where and how you should be doing better.
That’s why one of the most fundamental things I can do as a business owner is to foster an environment that promotes and rewards continuous organizational and quality improvement.
Don’t get me wrong—continuous organizational and quality improvement is by no means a “top down” process. To truly be successful, the process of continuous improvement has to acknowledge that a good idea or suggestion for change can come from anyone at any time. The responsibility for organizational improvement is everyone’s, and it is a process that must stretch across the entire enterprise.
At R&J, our corporate mantra is “Make a Difference.” This is more than just a snappy catch phrase; it is an attitude and a pillar of our business model. Making a Difference can manifest itself in many ways – in client service through a laser-focus on delivering a quality product; in how we function as part of the larger world around us; and in the personal and professional opportunities we extend to our employees. Making a Difference is a goal that everyone shares, and we encourage everyone in the organization – from interns on up – to make suggestions that can improve the way we do things for our clients and within our business.
Ideas for change and improvement don’t have to be seismic; sometimes even a small idea that gets implemented can end up making a significant difference across the enterprise. Even a small step forward is a step in the right direction.
The point is, we can almost always improve things. This holds true in business as in life. In today’s business, processes need to be constantly reviewed, strategies need to be discussed, opinions need to be shared, and decisions need to be questioned. And after a project or campaign is executed – and often times along the way as well – we need to talk honestly and openly about what can, should or might be done differently moving forward.
Which brings me back to the traits that “tomorrow’s communicators” will need to embody. I am convinced that the only way for communicators to remain relevant – and successful – in the future is to embrace change and be totally open to evolving both our individual mindsets as well as our overall business model to adapt to change. Adaptability and flexibility are the key traits that can help communicators to embrace the changes that come through continuous improvement. Versatility and resourcefulness will inspire, drive and galvanize continuous quality improvement.
Now more than ever, clients expect to see measurable results that increase their bottom line. It is incumbent on us as communicators to embrace changes that will help to deliver these results. In my experience, change that makes a difference usually results from a deliberate drive to promote and carry out continuous quality and organizational improvement. I strongly encourage you to consider it for your organization.