The essential mindsets of a strategic communicator


Many strategic communicators today are concerned (rightly) about how to future-proof their careers. As our industry continues to evolve, and the expectations of our internal clients and audiences continue to climb, it’s an important question to explore.

In my opinion, there are three core mindsets required for a strategic communicator to thrive today:

Agility: Increasingly, strategic communications professionals have to be highly adaptable, responsive and resilient. Gone are the days of a static job description and scope of work. Organizations now need a whole new level of flexibility from their communications teams. Even the Government of Canada, which might be emblematic of a bureaucratic and traditional institution, is codifying a priority on teaming and the “gig economy” where the right talent is at the right place at the right time. For communicators, that means building capacity for change and honing the ability to hit the ground running and add value regardless of the context.

Ambiguity: It’s clear that communicators have to get comfortable with the uncomfortable situation of not having all of the facts and information that might be ideal in figuring out what to do next. By definition, a strategic communicator is thrown in situations where the task is to find clarity out of complexity and forge a path forward, even though the full information about the issue or file may not be available. Embracing ambiguity and building the muscle required to anticipate and thrive is vital.

Ambidextrous: There is a growing body of work pointing to the importance of ambidextrous management – that is, the ability to at once deliver “business as usual requirements” while at the same time contributing to a change agenda. The creative tension between old and new is now the essential space for performance, and innovation. The value of this ambidextrous mindset is particularly relevant for strategic communicators. In a recent article, the European Association of Communications Directors highlights the critical need for communications teams that can thrive in two worlds – the world of today and of tomorrow, as well as the spheres of the strategic and of the tactical. Going forward, communicators need to be multidisciplinary, adaptable and open to ongoing learning.

So, what’s the common denominator between being agile, adapted to ambiguity and ambidextrous? Change. That’s why I continue to explore the point of intersection between strategic communications and change management – from where I sit, that’s the sweet spot of relevance for our profession.

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