I recently caught up with Chris Wynn, Director of Communications at Ofcom. Chris and I discussed what motivated his interest in the communications industry, the main challenges he feels the industry faces and his predictions for the communications sector in the next 5-10 years.
What originally peaked your interest in the comms industry?
I spent nearly a decade as a journalist before moving into public relations, so I’ve always enjoyed communicating a message to an audience. The move from journalism into PR is a well-trodden path because of the similar skills that are required – sometime described as 'poacher turned gamekeeper'. Working in communications is fast-paced, varied and unpredictable, which requires clear thinking and a calm head. At the same time, it's strategic, involves lots of problem solving and long-term planning. Working in such an environment isn’t for everyone, but it’s incredibly rewarding and enjoyable.
What would you say are the biggest challenges the industry faces, and how do you see this developing over the next 5 years?
A number of challenges facing communications as a profession are common to many other sectors. For example, many organisations are still grappling with how to create and embed diverse and inclusive cultures. D&I is particularly important in communications to avoid group think, foster greater creativity and encourage innovation – all to benefit the people and businesses we serve. Having broad representation – across characteristics including age, class, gender, ethnicity and sexual orientation – will help companies make better decisions because it brings more views and experiences to the table. I think it's particularly crucial in helping to understand younger people, what motivates them and the digital technology they grow up with. If the communications industry is still having to justify the business case for being diverse and inclusive, then it will struggle to catch up with more progressive sectors and will be worse off for it.
What advice would you give to aspiring comms professionals looking to start their career in the current climate?
I think anyone starting out in their career needs all the help they can get in the current climate. My advice is to get as much support and guidance as possible from people already established in the industry. Use LinkedIn to research who you could contact based on the career path you want to take. And be smart about it; when seeking advice from people ask specific questions that are relevant to their role or expertise. You’re unlikely to get much back if you just say: “Hi, it would be great to connect”. If you don't get a reply, don't take it personally - people are busy. But some will appreciate the initiative and will be happy to give some advice.