Top Secrets for Reaching the Top in Communications Industry

By Andrew Pelletier

Having spent 25 years across the international communications industry, I have never stopped being fascinated by what makes some professionals rise to the highest ranks, while other equally talented players seem to fall short of their potential.

With this in mind, I’ve assembled a list of what I believe are essentials to achieving extreme success in today’s dynamic communications industry.

While countless factors contribute to achievement in any profession, most communication “superstars” I know embrace the following six behaviors.

Get a Mentor AND a Reverse Mentor

Securing a seasoned mentor who becomes your compass and coach—beyond your regular boss—is a powerful engine for any communications career.

Most successful business leaders, including those who’ve reached CEO status, understand this; they have regular interaction with a mentor who keeps them focused on non-stop professional improvement.

But in the modern communication age, it’s equally important to have a reverse mentor; someone young enough to be instinctively on top of the chaotic pace of emerging technology.

It seems every day a new social media platform, digital channel, or app is born.

Some will be fleeting while others are here to stay.

The younger someone is, the more their world has been shaped by this flow of new tools, making them a valuable resource for keeping the seasoned communicator on the modern edge of digital engagement.

Strive For Influence, Not Authority

The ability to exert influence across organizations and industries—regardless of position or title—is crucial today.

This has a lot to do with how traditional hierarchies and silos are giving way to flatter and blurrier work structures.

Getting things done in this new workplace paradigm requires influence.

It means being able to persuade and motivate upward, downward, and across organizations.

Authority and titles come and go in today’s fluid work environments; influence lasts, and you can take it with you wherever you go.

Know When to Turn the Phone Off

Yes, we are living in the digital world, and yes, we are spending large portions of our lives on our smartphones and mobile devices.

But there is nothing more compelling than a professional who can be fully engaged, face-to-face, in person.

Knowing how to be personable, completely in-the-moment, and even charming can easily become lost arts in our digital existence.

When we are in the presence of people—especially those we need to engage, impress, and persuade—we need to be completely in-the-moment.

We need to know when to turn our smartphones off.

Be Relentlessly Creative

Ideas and creativity drive success at the top of the communications industry.

Corporations today, whether they know it or not, are often in desperate need of a steady stream of fresh, innovative approaches to managing issues, averting crises, and to making individuals, organizations, and products look good.

Sharp creativity will always grab the attention of an engaged C-suite.

For in-house executives and external consultants, knowing how to tap continuously and deeply into your creative juices—and those of your teams and colleagues—is essential.

Translating this creativity into actionable strategy is the way forward.

Be Different

As someone who has hired many executives, I have tended to select the candidates who held my attention because they were distinct and unique, not necessarily those with the strongest credentials.

Competition has always been fierce, a fact unlikely to change with the times.

The key is knowing how to leverage what makes you unusual and maybe even extraordinary.

Most successful executives I know have a crisp UVP statement (unique value proposition) which is seamlessly integrated into their professional narratives.

It becomes part of their vocabulary and is continuously fine tuned to express their unique value.

And Superstars in Communications Are Obsessively Ethical

Honesty and transparency have never been more in demand in today’s digital and global worlds.

Beyond the obvious premise of “doing the right thing,” a reputation for ethical communication can distinguish brands, organizations, individuals—and definitely careers—in the competitive marketplace.

The flip side is that questionable ethics—or the perception thereof—is an almost impossible bell to un-ring and an effective career killer.

Bottom line: An unwavering commitment to ethics should be the starting point for all communication strategies and tactics, period.

True communication leaders get it.

image credit: shutterstock

Andrew Pelletier

Andrew Pelletier, APR, ABC, is a multiple award-winning public relations advisor, adjunct professor and blogger based in Toronto, Canada. He holds 25 years of senior executive communications experience across the corporate, government, consulting, academic and multinational sectors. He hosts the public relations blog

View all posts by Andrew Pelletier