Navigating the Communications Landscape: Insights from Industry Experts

Volume One


Jolie Downs


In the ever-evolving world of communications, professionals are constantly seeking advice and insights to help them excel in their careers. The Career Wanderlust podcast has been a valuable resource, featuring guests who share their experiences and wisdom gained throughout their journeys. This article compiles some of the impactful stories and advice from these episodes, providing simple and actionable tips for communications professionals looking to thrive in their field.

Building and Nurturing Media Relationships
One of the most recurring themes among the guests is the importance of building and maintaining relationships throughout your career. Mike Bush, a seasoned communications professional, emphasizes the value of cultivating connections with junior reporters early on. By identifying talented individuals at trade publications and fostering these relationships, you can grow your network as these reporters progress to larger, more prominent outlets. These connections can lead to valuable opportunities, such as referrals, business prospects, or even the chance to bring a high-profile speaker to your panel, elevating its appeal.

Furthermore, Bush stresses the importance of retaining these relationships, even as you transition between in-house and agency roles. The connections you make early in your career can prove invaluable down the line, so it's crucial to maintain and nurture them over time.

Establishing Your Personal Brand
Another key piece of advice from Mike Bush is the significance of building your own brand. While it's easy to focus solely on promoting your clients or company, it's equally important to establish your own credibility and reputation within the industry. Bush suggests claiming credit for your work in a tasteful manner, such as sharing client successes on social media and expressing your excitement about their achievements.

By consistently promoting your work and expertise, you can attract a following and position yourself as a knowledgeable and trustworthy professional in your field. This personal brand-building is something Bush wishes he had prioritized earlier in his career, recognizing its potential impact on his professional growth.

Mastering Crisis Communications
In the world of communications, crises are inevitable. Mike Bush shares a valuable lesson he learned during a crisis situation: the importance of aligning your employees and controlling the flow of information. When facing a crisis, the first step should be to ensure that all employees are on the same page, with a clear understanding of who the designated spokesperson is and the protocol for handling media inquiries.

By sending out an internal communication outlining these guidelines and emphasizing the need for discretion, you can minimize the risk of misinformation or unauthorized disclosures. Bush recounts an incident where reporters went to great lengths to obtain exclusive scoops, highlighting the need for a unified front and a single point of contact during a crisis.

Harnessing "Weaponized Anxiety"
Kristina King introduces the concept of "weaponized anxiety," which she defines as the drive to excel, improve, and take things to the next level. As communications professionals, we often find ourselves consumed by anxiety, worrying about potential pitfalls and worst-case scenarios. However, King suggests that instead of allowing this anxiety to paralyze us, we should harness it to benefit ourselves, our clients, and our relationships.

By channeling this "weaponized anxiety" into proactive preparation, whether it's through crafting comprehensive briefing books, developing talking points, or meticulously planning events, we can transform our fears into productive action. This mindset shift can be applied to various aspects of our work, from crisis communications to client presentations, ultimately leading to better outcomes and increased confidence.

Finding Passion in the Mundane
Not every project or client will immediately ignite our passion, but Kristina King offers valuable advice for navigating these situations. When faced with a seemingly uninteresting assignment, King suggests seeking out elements that pique your curiosity and using them as a starting point to generate enthusiasm.

This could involve identifying generational insights that bridge the gap between you and the client, building relationships with new reporters, or developing creative approaches to the project at hand. By digging deeper and finding angles that resonate with you, even if they require a bit more effort, you can transform a lackluster task into an engaging and rewarding experience.

Embracing Collaborative Storytelling
Kristina King's most unconventional yet intriguing recommendation for communications professionals is to play Dungeons and Dragons (D&D). While it may seem unrelated to our field at first glance, King argues that the skills and dynamics fostered through D&D are directly applicable to our work.

D&D is a game rooted in collaborative storytelling, improvisation, and team-building – all essential elements of effective communication. By participating in a game that mirrors real-life scenarios, such as convincing a character to take a specific action or leveraging the unique strengths of team members, we can hone our ability to work collaboratively, adapt to different situations, and build cohesive narratives.

Moreover, D&D sessions are often referred to as "campaigns," drawing parallels to the long-term, strategic nature of our client work. By engaging in this immersive, storytelling-based experience, communications professionals can develop skills that directly translate to their professional roles, making them more effective and versatile team players.

Navigating Competitive Markets
Tim Donovan introduces the concept of "Blue Ocean Strategy," a book that offers insights on how to differentiate oneself in a crowded, competitive market. The idea behind this strategy is to find an uncontested market space, rather than trying to compete incrementally in a "red ocean" where everyone is vying for the same audience.

As communications professionals, you can apply this concept to your storytelling by seeking out "blue ocean" conversations. When the stories you tell for our clients or companies start to feel derivative or indistinguishable from the competition, it's an opportunity to find a fresh angle or perspective.

This could involve using new language, borrowing terms from other industries and applying them in novel ways, or crafting narratives that redefine the conversation altogether. By swimming in these "blue oceans," you can help your clients or organizations carve out a unique space, attracting attention and setting themselves apart from the crowd.

Making Tech Interesting
For those working in B2B or enterprise communications, making technical subjects engaging can be a challenge. Alex Plant, who has built a career in this space, shares his approach to crafting compelling stories around seemingly dry topics like data storage.

The key, according to Plant, is to focus not just on the technology itself, but on how it's being used and the impact it has on people's lives. By seeking out interesting use cases and customer stories, such as how a company's data storage solutions are supporting groundbreaking cancer research, you can transform a technical subject into an emotionally resonant narrative.

Plant also emphasizes the importance of identifying what makes a product or service unique, asking questions like "What makes it first, only, or best?" By digging deeper and uncovering these differentiating factors, you can create stories that highlight the true value and impact of the technology, making it more relatable and compelling to your target audience.

Leveraging AI for Content Creation
As the demand for content continues to grow, communications professionals are turning to artificial intelligence (AI) tools to help them keep pace. Alex Plant shares his experience using AI to expedite and enhance various aspects of his work, from brainstorming product names to generating written content.

While AI-generated content can sometimes come across as sterile or generic, Plant suggests teaching the AI to understand and emulate your brand's voice. By providing the tool with key messages and properties, and then taking on an editor's role to refine the output, you can harness the power of AI to create content that aligns with your desired style and messaging.

Plant also highlights the importance of finding the right AI tool for your needs and developing an effective working relationship with it. As these technologies continue to evolve, communications professionals who learn to leverage them strategically will be well-positioned to meet the ever-increasing demand for high-quality, on-brand content.

The insights shared by the guests of the Career Wanderlust podcast offer a wealth of knowledge for communications professionals at every stage of their career. From building relationships and establishing personal brands to navigating crises and leveraging emerging technologies, these stories provide practical advice and inspiration for those looking to thrive in this field.

By implementing these strategies and embracing a mindset of continuous learning and growth, communications professionals can position themselves for success, both now and in the future. Whether you're just starting out or are a seasoned veteran, there is always room to evolve, adapt, and find new ways to make a meaningful impact through your work.

What techniques have you developed to help you thrive in your career? Share with us for our volume two. We can all continue to learn through the stories of others.

You can hear more insights from leaders in the communications, marketing, and public relations field on the Career Wanderlust podcast:

Guests highlighted in this article:

Mike Bush, Head of Marketing with Talon Logistics

Kristina King, Partner, FINN Partners

Tim Donovan, Fractional CCO/CMO, Stealth

Alex Plant, Head of Marketing, Standard AI

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