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5 Habits to Building a Successful Communications Career

By: Chris Kuechenmeister
Sr. Vice President of Communications

Feb 26, 2018

We’re excited to introduce to you the members of Frito-Lay’s executive committee. Through this blog series, you’ll have a chance to hear from these leaders in their own words, as they share stories about their own careers, their experiences working in the snack food industry and more.

When I first started in public relations, stories were pitched by phone, information was still shared by fax, and email was a new, interesting novelty. The Internet was something we were learning to navigate, and it would be at least decade before Facebook or Twitter debuted. There was no such thing as 24-7 news, or smartphones that kept us connected at all times. Times have certainly changed. And as communications professionals, we must change, too. Here are five tried-and-true habits I believe will help us all navigate today’s PR world.

1- Develop leadership skills AND communications skills – they are different

Strong writing, the ability to shape compelling, newsworthy stories (and get them placed), social media smarts, and the capacity to navigate issues large and small -- these are fundamental skills every great communications professional must possess. Leadership is different – it’s the ability to set a vision, develop and motivate your team, influence an agenda and provide real-time counsel on a range of topics. Communications leaders need to always be open to growing in both of these areas.

2 - Listen to understand, not respond

Early in my career, I spent my time in meetings always thinking about how best to respond. After all, I wanted to add value to the conversation. The reality is my impact was limited because I never completely heard what others were trying to convey. My personal assumptions and conclusions clouded my ability to see and appreciate what was being shared with me.  When you listen to truly understand, you are more apt to ask meaningful questions and provide recommendations that are beneficial to the conversation. 

3 - Find your own authentic voice           

Finding your own voice is more important than trying to fit someone else’s expectations of who – or what – you should be. The leaders I respect most are those who are genuine and come from a place of authenticity. Being true to who I am and using my strengths to address situations in my day-to-day job has made me more effective. I know the more comfortable I feel in a situation, the more I am able to bring to the conversation.

4 - Diversify your experiences

Public relations is more than just working with reporters and planning social media campaigns. Diversify your experiences, and learn all you can. Develop skills to address a variety of situations, even those that might not be part of your day-to-day responsibilities. Learn about employee communications and building relationships with external stakeholders, study up on the latest crises and how PR teams responded. Maybe even volunteer for a new project as a way to expand your skills. This will prepare you for future leadership.

5 - Learn the Business

No matter your industry, learn your business. Meet with people from different teams, participate in company events, and learn about your competitors. As a communications professional, ensure everything you do helps drive business results. If not, you end up doing PR for PR sake, and that is a waste of time and resources. Try not to get caught up in the never-ending to-do list without taking a minute to really ask yourself if what you are doing aligns with the business goals and adds value.

No matter what, enjoy every experience and do your best to learn something new every day. I’ve been fortunate to have the opportunity to work with so many people on a variety of projects – each has helped shape who I am today. Communications is ever-changing, and it’s an exciting time to be part of our industry.


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