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13 Crucial Skills Communications Professionals Should Cultivate

We can never tell with absolute certainty what the future holds. However, understanding the trends within an industry allows a professional to plan for the future with great accuracy.

Within the fast-changing communications industry, professionals need to be ready to adapt to new technologies and approaches in the field to ensure the success of their operations. To this end, communications experts need to develop critical skills to set themselves up for future success.

Below, 13 experts from Forbes Communications Council examine what skills a communications professional should invest in today in order to stay relevant and be prepared for future trends.

Members share the top skills they believe every communications professional should master.


1. Empathy And Data Sense Capabilities

Our ever-changing profession today aims to inspire, educate, engage target audiences in a long-term trusted relationship. Hence, I see two key skill sets: Empathy that comes with listening and storytelling — the wider ability to look at the world from someone else’s perspective, and data sense capabilities — related to knowing how to read data, and the key tools that help get insights from big data. – Svetlana Stavreva, IBM

2. Tech Skills

People are worried that robots will take over jobs. Well, we should be watching tech trends, how that will impact the future of work and make sure we are gaining the skills that will always be in demand, from marketing to software development. After all, it’s humans who are building and promoting automation and robots, so how can we become obsolete? Embrace tech. Show the impact of technology on people and society. – Parna Sarkar-Basu, Brand and Buzz Marketing, LLC.

3. Data Storytelling

Marketing has always been a skillful blend of art and science. It feels as though there are more specialists in each these days. Bringing the two together, data storytelling is a much sought-after, differentiating skill — or an art. You pick. – Patrick Reynolds, SessionM

4. Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence is a crucial skill. As more and more of what we do becomes automated, one of the most important skills we will all need to have is communicating with people, understanding what they need and being able to collaborate with them effectively. – Seema Kumar,

5. A Mindset For Change

Possessing a mindset committed to continuous learning — through books, podcasts, articles and inspiring leaders with knowledge to share — will ensure you’re always prepared to embrace industry change. Complacency, and worse, arrogance, can only cultivate with a mindset closed off to new ideas, wisdom or trends. When you’re focused on always knowing more, you understand you can never know it all. – Melissa Kandel, little word studio

6. An Adaptive, Open-Minded Approach

In order to stay on top of new trends and market changes you need to embrace the adaptive approach. Listen to your colleagues, read the latest industry news, experiment with new tools and don’t stick to what you know that works. Test new approaches, tools and technologies. Give it a chance and then another one. Test yourselves and adapt to the new things that work. – Kobi Ben-Meir, Yalber

7. Curiosity

Successful adaptation requires a healthy dose of curiosity. Set aside time to read industry news, every day. Vary your sources. Click through links to original sources. Read opinions from different perspectives. Share articles and solicit debate. These are ways to build critical thinking and prepare yourself for the industry shift. – Ellen Sluder, RingBoost

8. Agility

Today’s media and communication landscape changes so quickly that industry leaders have to cultivate an agile learning culture within their organizations and stay open-minded and curious themselves for whatever trends and changes come up. It remains as critical as ever to stay in tune with your target audience to understand their changing needs, purchase behavior and media consumption. – Rafael Schwarz, TERRITORY Influence (a Bertelsmann group company)

9. Research Skills

From artificial intelligence to internet of things and from monetization to mobilization, marketing continues to evolve at breakneck speed. For marketers to succeed, we must practice first-party research to make sure we understand how consumers are evolving and how brands can adapt to continue to be relevant. Relying on others to do the research for us will always put us one step behind the leaders. – Kathy Bryan, Digital Media Solutions

10. Listening

This may seem like a given, but listening is a skill that most of us have to really master. Listening takes a great deal of practice and continued practice. To be the most effective marketing communications professional, hone the skill of deliberate listening. Practice, practice and then practice more. – Heather MacLean, Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of New Brunswick

11. Writing

No matter what tech or industry changes come our way, communicators must always have the ability to write. The channels may be shifting, but almost everything we do depends on writing a story, a script, a post, even a caption. It will be even more critical as attention spans continue to dwindle and there are shiny distractions everywhere. Good writing will always be a differentiator. – Kate Barton, Clearview Advisory

12. Selling Skills

Virtually every marketer — whether you’re in marketing communications, branding or performance marketing — is an integral part of their company’s sales process. Understanding the sales process in general and specifically in your organization will make you a more effective marketer. Shadow your sales reps, sit in on sales calls and take some sales training to gain a better understanding of this side of the business. – Tom Wozniak, OPTIZMO Technologies, LLC

13. Customer Experience Skills

Every professional, regardless of job title or level, needs to elevate their customer experience (CX) skills. When competitive products and prices are relatively the same, CX can be a brand differentiator. People buy from people. It’s why learning and applying CX methodologies and best practices is critical now, and even more so in the future as technology advances and dehumanizes experiences. – Stacy Sherman, Schindler Elevator Corporation

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