The how or the what?
When it comes to professional corporate communications experience, which camp are you in - the sector experience camp or the communications skills camp?
I see a lot of job ads. For me, they’re a bit like property porn. Stuck somewhere with five minutes to fill and a full battery, I’m either scrolling through RightMove marvelling at gymnasium-sized kitchen extensions and wondering why estate agents don’t tell people to put their drying laundry away before the photographer comes round, or I’m on the LinkedIn Jobs tab, bewildered by the range of opportunities that the algorithm considers a match for my profile (Health and Safety Manager? Hmm, let me think…)
I’ve worked in corporate communications for more than 20 years and in lots of different sectors, in-house and agency, public and private sector. I’m a strategic communications specialist, not a tech or financial comms specialist or a travel or beauty PR professional. My expertise is in developing outcome-focused communications, and in knowing how to determine the best use of comms messages and media for specific audiences and objectives. Usually it involves using insight and information, and that’s best when it’s most topical and relevant. So I’m in the communications skills camp: I’m skilled at the methods – the ‘how’ – and I can learn about the subject – the ‘what’ – as I need to.
A passion or – at the very least – a passing interest in the sector is a great motivator but years and years dealing with the same subjects can sometimes equate to stale and boring.
My trawl of job ads suggests that some recruiters value sector experience more highly than I do. I get that. They might be looking for someone with an impressive list of media contacts, or an esoteric knowledge of how their competitors operate. They may not want to wait for their new recruit to learn who’s who and what the particular idiosyncrasies of their industry are. They might feel their learning resources are better invested in communications skills. They’re not wrong in any of this.
In our ever-evolving profession, there’s room for both camps. Who knows? – I might be convinced to hop over to the other side one day.