Asim Lone, senior digital marketing manager for the Royal Air Forces Association, shared his thoughts on modern communications. Read the interview for his insights about meaningful work and understanding the audience.
1. Why did you choose to pursue a role in communications? For example, has it always been your passion or was it pure happenstance?
I certainly didn’t choose to pursue this path when first starting out. In fact, I spent about the first decade of my career in web development! However, I found myself having to up-skill and take on more communications type activity particularly from a digital marketing perspective in response to the changing needs of my clients who themselves were responding to the wider changes on-going in technology and its impact on consumer behaviour. The more I got into communications, the more I resonated with it and eventually made the jump when the right opportunity came along.
2. What personal skills or attributes do you think are most important for a communications role? Why these skills/attributes in particular?
Oh that’s a tough one! Communications encompasses a wide spectrum of approaches and therefore the skills/attributes that are important. Reflecting on this through my own lens, empathy as an attribute and storytelling as an ability are important. You need empathy to gauge your audience’s hopes and fears, and the ability to tell a story to meet either of those motivators. Of course there are other skills linked to your publishing medium and channel of choice be that visual, audio or written but empathy and storytelling underpin these in my view.
3. What sort of challenges do you face in your role? Is there a particular challenge that you experienced in the past that stood out?
Audience de-conflicting is arguably the biggest challenge my team and I face on an on-going basis. The non-profit organisation I work for operates in a diverse and varied number of areas that can sometimes conflict with one another particularly where audience targeting is concerned. As with any brand, it is crucial we publish consistent messaging while giving an adequate amount of promotion to each of the areas of the business. Reducing overlap between targeted audiences through more focused segmentation helps us achieve this. Not an easy balance to maintain though and we’re ever on the vigil to ensure the business receives the promotion it needs while maintaining as happy an audience as can be.
4. How is the role of communications perceived in your organisation?
It is a strategic objective of the organisation and so is fairly well resourced, particularly given the challenging year 2020 was. We have a directorate split into a number of teams focused on the differing aspects of marketing and communications, with my team’s focus being digital marketing and all the lovely activities that encompasses.
5. What advice would you give to those at the start of their career in communications?
I think even before any effort to improve skills you should reflect on the level of resonance you get with what you’re doing. Use the following questions to gauge this: Are you fascinated by audience motivation, and not just the why and what they do but how and when they do it? Are you energised by putting your work out in the public domain and have it connect with people at a deeper level? Are you interested in the response to your work by your audience, both positive and negative? And can you use that to derive insight and learn to continually improve what you publish? Provided your answers are in the affirmative, reflect on your publishing medium of choice and master the skills you need.
6. What do you think the secret of success is when working in communications?
Authenticity. I feel strongly that it’s the hearts that communicate and connect, more so than the sense of sight, hearing or smell. If you’re putting a piece of your heart into your work it will resonate. It will find an audience. Perhaps, even, one that you didn’t intend. I think linked to this is also the mastery over the use of received feedback on your work. It’s easy to become distracted by the many voices that want or have input into what you publish. At times it can be demoralising. Ultimately, the perspective of others can improve your work but to be truly successful I think you need to master the ability to recognise the value of the feedback, prioritise its use accordingly, and have the confidence to reject what falls outside of your authenticity.
7. We at React & Share live for helping communications teams through understanding website content sentiment and improving it off the back of feedback. How do you and your team approach content improvement?
I think I may have answered a bit of this question with my last answer! Taking this a little further, there are a plethora of tools available now that can be installed on your website that help to navigate how well your content has been received. We take a more conversion-optimised approach in the use of some of these tools to better understand if our content is well received and is leading to the actions we would like our audience to perform. This is a mainstay for us to improve both current and future content continuously.