Deirdre Breakenridge

Modern Communicators Need Answers to Navigate Media

By: Deirdre Breakenridge | October 2, 2017 | 
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Modern CommunicatorsI’m often asked, “How do you define modern communicators?”

Are they PR people?

Are they marketers?

Or are they citizen journalists, bloggers, or other influential personalities?

What about entrepreneurs and business owners who use social media; are they the modern communicators?

Traditionally trained professionals in PR and marketing fit the definition.

However, because social media gives everyone a voice and a platform, and every company has the potential to be a media company, consumers may look at modern communicators differently with a new set of expectations and preferred practices.

Regardless of your education, training, and experience, modern communicators are storytellers, brand reputation managers, truth seekers, integrity reminders, relationship builders, pursuers of knowledge, and mentors.

In a quickly changing landscape, businesses must prepare for advancing technology, media channels are proliferating, and customers are demanding better experiences.

They have to be armed and ready with answers and actions to address pressing questions and issues.

As a result, modern communicators must continuously sharpen their skills to communicate effectively in a business environment.

Asking questions, engaging in more discussions, and being curious are great ways to start.

The year 2018 marks my 30th anniversary in PR and marketing.

From the time I started, as a young, energetic communications student all the way until now, I’ve asked, and I’ve answered many questions about changing media, advancing technology, and the best ways for businesses to communicate effectively to their internal stakeholders and the public.

My book, Answers for Modern Communicators: A Guide to Effective Business Communication, which will be published by Routledge on October 4th, addresses more than 150 pressing questions for modern communicators and what they need to know.

I share the knowledge I’ve learned over a long and rewarding career.

I’ve also invited many of my smart marketing friends, who are experts in their fields, to share guiding principles and what has helped them advance their careers.

Stories in the book focus on valuable lessons; many of them reflect successful choices and other highlight missteps.

After all, if you don’t make mistakes, then you can’t learn from them.

Either way, the answers underscore critical areas and practices that guide the modern communicator.

Whether you want to advance your professional brand or communicate with more impact on behalf of your company, the modern communicator must always:

Practice Communication Essentials

Modern communicators are ready for the opportunities and challenges of everyday businesses operating in a global landscape.

Whether your business is local, regional, or has a worldwide audience through social media your communication goes beyond the city, state, or even your country’s border.

As you operate in this global environment, regardless of the advances you see and the changes you navigate, your core principles should be constant and guide you.

For instance, ethics, trust, accuracy, accountability, and your reliability and honesty remain at the top of your priority list.

At the end of the day, if you continue to practice the essentials, regardless of the changes, your integrity and credibility will remain intact.

Develop Strong Relationships Built to Last

Relationships are at the heart of communication.

You’ll always find new ways to connect with people, interact in different communities, create impact, and grow your relationships on a much deeper level.

This year is Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, and Instagram. But who knows where you’ll take communication and technology engaging in the communities of the future.

The Internet of Things (IoT), Augmented and Virtual Reality, and Artificial intelligence lead us into new territories with different experiences.

Regardless, future relationships are based on what people experience with you. And also what they expect from you every time they interact with your brand.

Socialize Your Brand

As a modern communicator, your social media participation plays a major role in expanding your digital footprint.

It’s one of the best ways to share compelling stories and to engage audiences who demand real people show up to their conversations with helpful information.

Modern communicators are born tech testers who love to explore social media and any technology.

They push themselves out of their comfort zones and embrace new ways to engage through various channels.

At the same time, modern communicators quickly learn where it makes sense to participate as acknowledged community members vs. where it’s best to listen and share less.

Take Stories to a New Level

A big area of focus is content and the media mix.

Paid, earned, shared, and owned (PESO) help you take your stories to new levels and reach people in the different places they congregate.

Yes, content is still king and rules the media landscape, although distribution is a close second.

If you can’t figure out where to reach your audience, then why bother creating the content in the first place?

Modern communicators also realize people want to be involved in your content initiatives and the building of their favorite brands.

When there’s personal investment, there’s more interest and action. Crowdsourcing and co-creating are familiar terms.

Own Your Reputation

While you’re ramping up your stories and the places where you share, you’re also opening up the floodgates to no shortage of opinions and judgment.

There is no taking back what you say, only accounting for what you’ve said.

The do-over doesn’t exist, and modern communicators realize this quickly.

Because perception is different for everyone and the reach of a social network is vast, your commitment and focus on brand reputation increases.

But, it’s not just the words you communicate, it’s your actions.

The good news is the bank of trust grows in the eyes of the public when you watch, listen, and respond to what people are saying and always do what’s in the best interest of all of the parties involved.

The most recognizable brands in the world face adverse situations and issues that quickly arise.

Not handling issues can have a large effect on how people feel and whether they remain your loyal customers.

Brands make missteps all the time. The damage is a direct reflection of how they handle themselves before, during, and after the issues occur.

Communicating with authenticity, accuracy, and honesty will keep your cup of good will, filled to the brim, with public confidence.

Modern Communicators Measure Success Professionally and Personally

Accountability and proving value has been the communicator’s challenge for years.

Modern communicators know that proving business value takes work, including detailed strategy and planning with precise goals and objectives.

The science part of your role is just as important as the art of your storytelling.

Accountability is hard work because you’re tracking and benchmarking your efforts while also collecting data sets from other areas of your company to bring pieces of the impact puzzle together.

As modern communicators, data literacy becomes essential.

Your job is to improve your communications by being tuned into media trends and your customer’s perceptions and behaviors.

An important part of your role is helping your business make better decisions.

From this point forward, get out of your department silo to collaborate with others and be more hands-on with data.

Data literacy goes beyond just accepting analysis and insights shared with you.

Mentor and be a Forever Student 

People are communicating through online courses, forums, tweet chats, blogs, and the list continues.

Social media offers an opportunity to learn in many different communities, whether it is with your communications colleagues or professionals outside of your industry.

Every time you create a blog post, publish to LinkedIn, post a thoughtful comment in a Facebook group, or create a video on a hot topic, you are mentoring someone.

When you’re participating in a Twitter chat and answering questions for the community, the entire community is learning. You are helping your professional peers.

Remember, no one will remind you when to become a mentor and to start answering questions.

Modern communicators take on mentoring naturally as a part of their role.

In the Answers book, you will find answers to practical modern communication questions.

The information may even spark different answers and choices you would make. And then you’d want to share them with your network of colleagues and friends.

Whether it’s my answers or your own, be the modern communicator who continues to push the envelope and embrace the changes in front of you.

Most of all, pay the knowledge forward to help younger professionals become strong modern communicators in the future.

About Deirdre Breakenridge


Deirdre Breakenridge is CEO of Pure Performance Communications. She is an international speaker and trainer, podcaster, LinkedIn Learning instructor and an adjunct professor and online instructor at UMASS at Amherst and Rutgers University. Her most recent book, Answers for Modern Communicators, A Business Guide to Communication, will be published by Routledge in October 2017.

  • I cannot wait for this book to be out so I can see it in all its glory!

  • One thing I always respect about you is commitment to being a mentor and learner. That shines through in all the insight and growth you bring to our industry. I can’t wait to see all the lessons passed on in the book!

  • Definitely looking forward to the book! I constantly refer to myself as a lifelong learner/forever student, but I like that you stress the need to mentor… that there’s a lot to be learned by leading, teaching and ultimately providing insight into an increasingly cluttered content landscape.

    I also love “Practice Communication Essentials”. Having a list of guiding principles is important. Referring back to them when we communicate and engage is pivotal as well!

    great post!

  • Debbie Johnson

    “Mentor and be a forever student.” I am a lifelong learner. I went back to school for my master’s degree, and I make professional development a priority. I’m always looking for new ways to do things, so I appreciate this point.

    I am also grateful for the opportunity to be a mentor. I learn just as much from those I mentor as they do from me. But it’s also important to have mentors, and I find that those I’ve met through the PR Dream Team and this blog are filling that role for me, even if they don’t know it.

    I can’t wait to read your book.

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