Tuesday, July 24, 2007

My generation...not

I'm working on a survey which will be issued in September covering two issues: who are today's internal communication practitioners, and what they think of their CEOs as communicators.

I did a bit of pre-work on this at a conference in Newcastle the other month, and that small sample showed a growing divergence between the old guard and new breed of comms pros.

I'm towards the younger end of the old guard, but started my professional life on a magazine, and have mixed in-house comms jobs with a few years at a PR agency and, latterly, seven years as an independent. My basic toolbox is words - I trained as a journalist and have spent my career either using words or getting others to use them. I gained management experience through seniority and probably age and have gained business experience as the comms guy brought into business projects.

Not so my younger business acquaintances. Very few have come through the journalism route. Their tool kit is their ability to bring in the right people to craft, deliver and measure the messages they manage. They've been trained for management and many have degrees in business studies - giving them a great head start in understanding the drivers within organisations. Many have come from HR or marketing or are stepping through comms as part of a graduate programme. Their perspective on what's important in comms can be very different from mine.

Neither the old guard nor the new young guns have the monopoly on what's right in comms today and there's much we can learn from each other. However, i suspect the survey will show that we're heading to a tipping point where the business skill that is IC will diverge forever from external straightforward journalism. When that divergence finally happens, the trick will be to ensure that communicators never dump the core craft skills of great writing and editing. They're definitely not an end in themselves in IC - but they still make by far the best start point for great careers.

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