During my long corporate career, I only can recall three times when a boss yelled at me. Perhaps the most vivid and preventable reprimand came when my boss asked about a newspaper article that appeared in The Wall Street Journal that morning—and he mostly got a blank stare from his Chief Communications Officer. It was one of the rare mornings I didn’t even glance at the major headlines. Never again, I pledged.
Today, many feel they get a sufficient amount of news via social media, but most business leaders still rely on the traditional newspapers – online and print – to organize the news they need to know. Meanwhile, 29% of Millennials can’t recall the last time they purchased a newspaper, according to an American Press Institute study.
Social media headlines and word of mouth aren’t enough to help you survive and excel in your job.
Paul Gerrard, Vice President of Strategic Communications at Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, explains the essential role of a communications professional as being “the eyes and ears of the organization.” To do this effectively, Paul says: “You must understand conversations taking place beyond the office that might impact an organization’s reputation directly or indirectly, and which might benefit from our engagement and perspective.”
“It is imperative to make reading and watching the news a daily habit,” says Julie Biber, Global Managing Director of Recruitment at Edelman. “Not only does it give you more color on current events, you enhance your own skills in writing. It makes you smarter in every interaction. It also enhances your point of view on a variety of industry trends, elections, people, global crises and current events.
And you can’t just pretend, says Julie. “Some companies will ask you in an interview what publications you read and news outlets you follow. You not only want to be well-versed, you want to have an excellent awareness of what’s happening in the world.” She says Edelman asks this question in every interview, adding: “We can always tell when a person is fibbing, too.” Paul Gerrard agrees, adding: “A candidate who is unaware of, or shows little interest in the world around them is unlikely to possess the curiosity essential to be an effective communications professional.”
Underscoring the importance for communications professionals to track “news” in the world throughout the day, PR agency veteran and consultant Rich Jernstedt adds, “You also have to know the media channels and journalists (of all kinds) covering the news important to your areas of responsibility. Then you can influence, leverage, interpret, minimize the damage, and actually be able to make news. It’s what we’re paid to do.”
DePaul colleague Matt Ragas and I often discuss the importance of staying abreast of business news whenever we talk about our book, Business Essentials for Strategic Communicators. Matt says, “The best way to learn the language of business is to start regularly reading the Wall Street Journal. Circle the words you don’t know. Look them up on a site like Investopedia. The daily ‘What’s News’ section of the The Journal only takes maybe 3-5 minutes to read, but will have you sounding and thinking like a CEO, policymaker and strategist.”
If I had read “What’s News” before getting the call from my CEO nearly 15 years ago, I wouldn’t still be thinking about that time he yelled at me. I’ll cover the other two times he yelled at me in future blog posts–after I overcome the embarrassment.