12 essential skills for proactive communication

by Jo Ann Sweeney - 11:04 on 16 July 2012

As organisations continue to reduce employee numbers they are becoming more focused on key skills including communication capabilities.

Often I’m asked what communication skills do we need and how do we work out which are essential and which are nice to have.

Rather than listing skills, which is not that helpful, I suggest instead thinking about the ways they want to connect with their audiences – and then the skills needed to manage these ways.

These skills are just as relevant in programme and project teams as they are in business communication teams.

Generating news

These skills are the core needed for creating positive news stories about your programme, team and organisation in external and internal publications, both online and in print.
Media relations – contacting editors and journalists to suggest potential stories and discuss the angles they might take. This is relationship building.
Copywriting – researching story leads and writing outlines of the most promising as précis or briefs; writing news stories following the inverted pyramid structure; clearing copy with people who can comment on accuracy and commercial confidentiality.

Printed information

Printed information has a longer lifespan than news; again it can be published in print and online.
Editing – deciding the topics to be included; allocating copywriting to team members or external writers; proofreading cleared copy; liaising with external suppliers including designers and printers
Copywriting – researching topics; writing and clearing copy; keeping editor updated on progress and issues
Distribution – arranging for publication to be delivered to audiences.

Audio visual

Creating audio and video content in hard copy – dvd and cd – or soft copy files that can be emailed or streamed to audiences.
Producing – managing all the creative elements including the storyline, script, casting and filming locations.
Directing – using cameras, lighting and sound equipment to film raw video footage.
Editing – using editing software to transform raw footage into meaningful videos.
Distributing – delivering videos to audiences, either in hard copy or via online streaming.

Digital & social media

Digital content is broadcast electronically and includes email, the internet, intranet and extranets. Social media is about using online applications to connect with people.
Editing – deciding content, allocating copywriting, proofreading, and overseeing the webmaster.
Copywriting – creating and clearing the content.
Webmaster – managing the technical elements including loading cleared copy on the website.

Event management

Events are about creating memorable experiences for people that are different to their day to day work and lives.
Planning – organising the logistics including venue, hospitality, technology, agenda and speakers.
Project management – coordinating daily during the event so everything runs smoothly.
Analysis – post-event evaluation of how the event ran, written report and recommendations so learning is taken back into your team and business.


Everything around presenting face-to-face to audiences, from an informal gathering of just a handful to large formal conferences.
Account management – support to speakers to help them prepare including public speaking training and advice on appearance.
Copywriting – scripting the speech and producing the slide presentation pack.
Public speaking – delivering the presentation to an audience.

Do you have other capabilities you would add to this list? Please share them with us below.

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Comment by Odoh Diego Okenyodo at 10:21 on 17 July 2012.
Great list. But I think it should also include media monitoring and analytical skills. How do you know if your work is making impact and where to adjust application of resources? Is social media effective? You need to monitor what's happened there.
Comment by Jo Ann Sweeney at 14:12 on 24 July 2012.
Thanks Odoh, a great suggestion. Without monitoring the effectiveness of what we do we could be wasting our efforts and resources.

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