Rebecca Johnston, sexual violence communication and engagement manager, joins us for a chat about the numerous skills you might pick up in a comms career. She emphasizes being disciplined enough to never stop improving, using user feedback to constantly make your work better.
Why did you choose to pursue a role in communications? For example, has it always been your passion or was it pure happenstance?
In 2010, I started an undergraduate degree in Journalism at The University of Chester. I’d always enjoyed writing and have a creative side. After graduating I got a marketing role but felt that the functionality wasn’t for me. I then took 11 months out and traveled Australia which gave me time to consider what it was that I wanted to do. Some of my friends had gone into communications and the more I researched it, the more I felt this was the avenue for me.
What personal skills or attributes do you think are most important for a communications role? Why these skills/attributes in particular?
Team work, definitely! You need to be willing to work in a team, and I believe the best creative outputs come when you work in collaboration.
Creativity — you need to think outside of the box in order to achieve objectives and be adventurous with your approach.
Time management — you’ll experience many deadlines when working in communications and it’s the ability to manage your time and projects effectively that will help you succeed.
What sort of challenges do you face in your role? Is there a particular challenge that you experienced in the past that stood out?
I think professionally it’s the requirements of employers to have a one-size-fits-all approach. Organisations seem to want someone that can do everything — be an outstanding graphic designer, build a website and also maintain social media/press inquiries. The majority of comms professionals can do a little bit of everything but no one can be an expert in it all. I’ve found that you will get comms professionals who specialise in an area with mine being digital communications, although you might find a press officer, graphic designer, or even internal comms specialist.
How is the role of communications perceived in your organisation?
This is a difficult one as my role doesn’t really belong to an organisation but a collection of organisations at the moment. My current role is more around campaign development and project management. I coordinate different strands to a large campaign which when added together have a combined message.
What advice would you give to those at the start of their career in communications?
Think about what speciality is right for you and make sure it’s something you enjoy. Although knowing a little bit of everything is great, don’t worry too much about being an expert in it all. Picking a speciality will help you excel in that area and pave the way for new opportunities.
What do you think the secret of success is when working in communications?
This is a difficult one. If I had to pick one it would be the willingness to focus on personal development. I am always looking at new opportunities to expand my knowledge. I love analytics, and specialising in digital naturally includes being able to understand Google Analytics etc. Being willing to focus on your own development and taking the time to invest is really beneficial.
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’m a true believer in user feedback. So looking at who you want to be looking at your website and then undertaking a qualitative survey to understand their thoughts. Alongside this looking at behaviours through Google Analytics, Google Trends, and SEO.