Helping Marketing & Communications Up-and-comers with 3 Key Skills for Professional Success

Discover the skills that are essential to marketing and communications professionals.

Like so many marketing/communications professionals, I enjoy helping newly minted graduates and early-stage professionals grow in their careers. I also want our industry to continue to grow in stature. Here’s where I see a gap between the two: Because we have so many more tools in the toolbox (analytics, social media platforms, apps, etc.), I’m concerned we’re losing what I call the “3 Key Skills” of our profession. We must reinvigorate the teaching and practice of these skills to keep our marketing/communications profession effective and valued.

Below are the 3 Key Skills and my definitions. (You may define them a little differently. Hopefully, you’ll agree with my premise.)

  1. Critical Thinking — The ability to look at an issue, problem or situation and reason through an answer/solution without undo bias. This may take research and talking with experts.  It should also take your own critical thinking and reasoning to get to the answer. Even if it’s an answer you wish weren’t so. (I don’t mean an unethical nor illegal answer.  I mean one you don’t like, don’t find fun, don’t wish you had to do, etc.)
  2. Strategic Counsel — To not just be an “order-taker” but to give sound advice and counsel on how best to do something. It sometimes means telling a client or boss what they don’t want to hear. Doing something the best way not the easiest way. Sticking your neck out when others don’t see it or disagree. (And for the record, if it’s good counsel, in most cases, it will make things better in the long run.) It also means identifying when there isn’t one great solution – but rather a “pick-your-poison” set of options. (There’s no best solution. All have clear downsides. Pick one and do your best to mitigate the downside.)
  3. Writing — Twitter and other platforms have helped us write short sentences – not necessarily effective ones. Are we helping young professionals learn to write a strategic plan? Write copy that “sings”? Write a press release that’s in reverse-pyramid format?  Write an email that doesn’t just provide information – but effectively conveys stellar ideas, concepts, strategies, direction and/or the best solutions?  Good writing does that.

The above “3 Key Skills” have always been a challenge in our industry, but some graduates and young professionals have little hands-on experience or understanding of their importance.

We can do better. Here’s how: If you’re hiring people that lack these skills, teach them. If you speak/teach at universities and young professionals’ groups, emphasize them. If you are creating professional development programs, include them. And finally, if you have the authority, financially reward those who demonstrate them.

There will be young professionals who have these skills out the gate. Others must learn or improve. It’s critically important to our profession.

To those up-and-comers realizing there may be gaps in your education or experience, take heart. You have access to more professional development programs (in person and online) than ever before. Dive in and enjoy the process. Let your supervisors know your eagerness to learn and grow. Challenge yourself. You can do it!

To those seasoned professionals who teach or share these skills at universities or in various professional development venues, thank you!

To those who hire, promote, mentor in the work environment, please value – and reward – these skills. If you already do, thank you!

Let’s all grow with the times while keeping the 3 Key Skills at the core of our profession. We can do it – and we’ll all benefit!

Shelly Holmes, Holmes Associates

As an award-winning marketing/communications veteran, Shelly has worked with high-profile organizations – as well as those needing to make a name for themselves. She has overseen milestone efforts with organizations such as Anthem Blue Cross, Raytheon, TIAA-CREF, PG&E, DIRECTV, First 5 California, departments within the Counties of Los Angeles and Orange, as well as nonprofits, educational institutions and business startups. She and her associates help private and public sector clients: define comms messages and strategies; create brands and campaigns; market products and services; build partnerships; outreach to diverse communities; demonstrate thought leadership; navigate issues/crises – and more.