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Why Communications Agencies Need To Be A Hive Of Pollination

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Given the much publicised issue of a skills shortage in the social media sector, there has been a lot of discussion regarding the appropriate skill set of the social media communicator. And what’s more, it is a discussion that is ongoing.

Firstly, it is important to define who or what a social media communicator is, and in broad terms, this can be defined as a technician that is skilled in the development and execution of social outreach messages across social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and now of course, Google+. From a personal perspective, everyone who has a personal profile on a social network is a social network communicator, but the question of the skills shortage is less about the personal outreach, and more about social communication on behalf of brands or established profiles with numerous followers or fans.

With regard to defining the appropriate skills, there appear to be two schools of thought on the matter; the first arguing that because social media has evolved from a technological perspective, that it remains the natural preserve of the technical developer or “geek” for want of a better moniker. Certainly, there is merit in this argument. When it comes to designing and developing apps, or getting deep and dirty in coding or analytics, the core skills and interest of the technical developer come to the fore and are able to provide the all important intelligence, analysis, tactics and strategy. Equally, it could be argued that without this technical know-how, there would be no digital social networks.

The other school of thought is that the key skill set for a social network communicator should focus on those who are naturally skilled communicators, rather than specifically technically minded. This is equally, if not more persuasive, at the current time, given the requirement for brands to ensure that their followers or fans are engaging with their content offering.

However, whilst there is clear merit in both arguments, both schools may be missing the crucial point in that it is precisely the marriage of the two skill sets that lead to the most effective forms of social networking, and it’s this marriage that most PR companies or communications agencies are evolving to offer. As an initial step, building a team that encompasses complimentary skill sets from traditional PR, to search engine optimisation allows agencies to offer project teams across client accounts, cherry-picking the right team members according to the brief.

In time and through this marriage, the cross pollination of skills will occur; as technically minded developers and architects add more traditional communications skills to their bow and vice versa, those from a more traditional background will develop a better understanding of the intricacies of technology as they strive to offer their clients a more effective and consultative service.

In part, a result of the rapid evolution of social networking and brand adoption of social networking, particularly over the last few years, the objective for communications agencies is not to lament the scarcity of the “perfect all-rounder”, but to hand pick candidates with complimentary but different approaches and skills, and let the pollination happen. Then, in the fullness of time and as the sector matures, we’ll begin to see the offspring of this conception as fully fledged, social networking communicators.

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