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Ask a Recruiter: What do executives look for in communication professionals?

Communication World asked communication executive recruiter Steve Mallison-Jones about the trends affecting the career paths of today’s communication professionals, and what executives look for in strategic communication advisers.

Steve has been a recruiter for top communication and PR roles for the past 15 years. He is the founder of Trouve LLC, a retained executive search business focused on PR, communication and digital services and a talent adviser to some of the largest agencies and corporations in the U.S.

Communication World: In your role as a recruiter for top communication roles, what are some of the most crucial skills and characteristics you find companies are looking for in communication professionals?

Steve Mallison-Jones: The agencies and in-house teams that retain me to find top talent have a number of themes that remain constant across mid- and senior-level communication roles.

You have to be a great writer across traditional, digital and social.

You have to be a great at networking and building relationships. The ability to work in a team and become a talent magnet yourself is also crucial for senior communicators. You are as good as the team you can locate, attract and secure. The modern communicator needs to be collaborative and able to draw together stakeholders.

My clients value loyalty and tenure, when someone sees job change every 15 months, they ask questions. They want to know what went wrong.

CW: What advice would you give to communication professionals for how to continually reinvent themselves to keep pace with changes in the profession? What are some habits to develop to make sure their skills stay relevant?

SMJ: Technology enables you as a communication leader to keep up with the latest thought across your industry. Take time to watch videos, read blogs and follow Twitter feeds.

Go to conferences that interest you. Track and follow the companies you want to work for and always reply to the LinkedIn in-mail from a head-hunter. You never know when you might want to work with them.

Follow groups on LinkedIn and take part in online discussions. You need to keep developing your storytelling ability, and content is still king for the modern communicator.

CW: How can communication professionals best position themselves to become strategic advisers to CEOs and other top leaders?

SMJ: CEOs and top leaders want advisers who they can trust to listen to them but also challenge them. Senior members of the C-suite are not looking for employees or advisers who won’t challenge them. Having an adviser who can effectively, with authority, communicate their idea in the boardroom is crucial.

CEOs are under enormous pressure to remain transparent and authentic, and your role as a top communicator is to help them do this. You are the one trained in these areas. The ability to turn on a dime and react fast will put you in that trusted role. Remember that for a CEO, every word and reaction is in the media spotlight.

CW: What are some of the biggest trends you see influencing the communication profession at the moment, and what should communication professionals be doing to respond to them?

SMJ: There is a continued push to digital, social and integrated communications. Everything has changed. However don’t just rush in with social because it is trending. It still needs to be part of an overall communication strategy.

You must understand digital at a deeper level than most. Video, social, conversion, automation all need to be terms you understand. Search out an expert who can help you develop in these areas; ongoing professional development and learning are crucial for the modern communicator. Modern technology leaves you no excuse to be uninformed.

Jessica Burnette-Lemon

Jessica Burnette-Lemon is the senior content manager for IABC.

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