The comms crystal ball: What should the in-house PR team of 2020 look like?

Crystal Ball by Mark Skipper

A chap called Geoffrey Hoyle wrote a book in 1972 – predicting that, by 2010, everyone would be wearing jumpsuits, work a 3 day week and would have electric cars delivered in tubes of liquid.

He also predicted the widespread use of ‘vision phones’ and doing your grocery shopping online.

I was reading a BBC article about it the other day. Apparently, a facebook campaign managed to track Hoyle down, which led to his book – ‘2010: Living in the Future’being reprinted (with the year in the title changed to 2011).

I find the whole thing fascinating and I’m not alone. Futurology is big business. It even has its own twitter handle @the_future – and hashtag #futurology.

The thing that seems to excite all futurologists, more than anything else, is the changing nature of communication – with many predictions, which seemed outlandish when first made, becoming commonplace years later.

David Brin’s 1989 novel – ‘Earth’ – for example, predicted citizen reporters, personalised web interfaces and the decline of privacy. We’re not laughing now.

I do wonder whether we consider this sort of thing enough when trying to future proof our organisations. If I look back just 6 years ago, to the shape, skills and project work of my team – compared with now – it’s almost unrecognisable. What will it be like in another 6 years?

I don’t have all the answers, but I know that if my team is to work brilliantly in 2020, I need to be gearing up for it now and doing a bit of my own futurology.

‘Workforce planning’ is such a yawn phrase. But, whether we like it or not, it’s an absolutely crucial aspect of comms management and it happens to be something I’m focusing on at the moment.

There are 5 key principles I’m working to:

  • Link to strategy

No workforce plan is worth the paper it’s written on if it doesn’t link to your organisation’s corporate strategy, your own comms strategy and your departmental action plans. What are you trying to achieve over the next few years? Is your team equipped to deliver? If not, how will you address it? You need evidence to back up your proposals.

  • Scan the changing landscape

You need to get attuned to the latest comms trends and be aware of what’s on the horizon. Having a focus on the long term, and then planning for it, is a darn sight better than reacting to short term requirements all the time. The future of the PR industry project, run by the PRCA, explores topics such as globalisation, social changes, and new comms platforms and channels and is worth a look as there are some useful online videos available.

  • Plug the gaps

Once you’re clear on your strategy, the future direction of comms and how your organisation should respond, you need to identify any gaps you have that could hamper delivery. Do you and your team need to learn new skills? Is a new post required? Are there comms activities which aren’t needed anymore? Can staff be freed up from old tasks to pursue new priorities? All of these, and more, need to be considered and built into your workforce plan.

  • Consult your team

It should never be done in isolation. Workforce planning needs collective input and your team are best placed to provide feedback, ideas and offer up solutions. They know their department better than anyone.

  • Evaluate as you go along

Regularly review your plan and amend and adjust as you go along. It should be a living document, not shelved away to gather dust for the next 6 years.

 

My future-proofing priorities are all about developing a team of hybrid professionals, multi-skilled communicators, with a greater emphasis on digital skills.

It’s about banishing outmoded and unnecessary activities, freeing up time to pursue more dynamic techniques. And, it’s also about building greater comms skills amongst the wider organisation and securing greater contribution from grassroots staff.

What does your comms crystal ball reveal for the future?

And, do you have a workforce plan to deliver?

Photo credits:

Crystal Ball by Mark Skipper (creative commons)