It may seem like an odd trio of activities to lump together when considering the role of the internal communications professional in 2014. The debate around content creation vs content curation has been rumbling on for years, however bringing the role of community manager into the equation was inspired by an article by communications and social media consultant and blogger – Silvia Cambia. In her post My Predictions for 2014, her first prediction was “The rise of the community manager: Be Afraid, Be Very Afraid.” She goes on to explain the potential threat of the community managers for the internal communicator:
“In my work, I have been witnessing an increasing number of situations where community managers in charge of [Enterprise Social Networking] know more about how to spread information around the organization and to get employees to listen than the head of internal communication. How did this happen? How did a junior employee, often straight out of college, get to penetrate the psyche of a company and understand what moves its employees much better than seasoned internal communicators?”
It’s a valid question and, combined with the rather downbeat predictions by Stephen Welch, President of IABC UK as featured in Simply-Communicate.com in early January, I think that many IC functions could benefit by taking a long, hard look at what they are doing and what value they contribute to their businesses.
The key theme explored by Welch is about how, or indeed whether, the IC function can, in 2014, achieve the stature and influence it should be exercising. The answer, Welch believes, might mean “..a changing role of IC professionals, from delivery-expert to coach, from doer to advisor, and from technical expert to business expert, so that they can properly and sagely advise senior leaders.”
The predictions of Business Communicator, Blogger and Podcaster Neville Hobson in the same feature had a similar theme: “Today’s communicator – at whatever level he or she occupies in the organisation – must, as never before, have clear vision and understanding of how communication and the communicator are key strategic assets that support measurable business objectives.”
Hobson identified five key comprehensions necessary for an effective internal communicator:
- Of organisations and how they function.
- Of your own organisation culture and structure.
- The major influencers and key subject-matter experts within your organisation.
- Your organisation’s business vision and mission.
- The measurable benefits that can arise from being a ‘social business.’
Hobson’s prediction for 2014 reaches a similar conclusion to Stephen Welch: “In an age where anyone can claim to be a communicator in business, it’s time for professional communicators to prove their relevance and context in what they do for their employers and clients, showing evidence through confident knowledge and the context of its benefit – the ROI – to the organisation.”
The question about “content creator, curator, community manager, or all of the above?” is that, in addition to “IC professionals strengthening their business nous” (Stephen Welch) we also have to respond to the ever-increasing challenge of getting key messages heard and understood in what has become a “cacophony of crap” (Welch again). As entrepreneur and best-selling author Seth Godin says: “We don’t have an information shortage; we have an attention shortage.” According to Godin, this means that power is shifting from content creators to content curators: “…If we live in a world where information drives what we do, the information we get becomes the most important thing. The person who chooses that information has power.”
Brian Solis, author of Engage, is also an advocate of the power held by a good curator: “…it’s actually more about right time than real time. In fact, when information comes through, it doesn’t necessarily mean that that’s the right time to engage, capture it, and share it.” In the words of Steven Rosenbaum, CEO of Magnify.net and author of Curation Nation, “When people choose to listen to you it’s because you’re able to separate signal from noise” and that, without doubt, is a function-critical objective that will require a multitude of skills for all IC professionals.