The speed and scale of COVID-19 not only bred uncertainty and disruption across the globe, but reinforced the power of communication in uniting or dividing communities. It also demonstrated the need for communication professionals to get smarter, swifter and more precise in the content and strategies they craft in response to growing social discontent in some sectors.
According to Deakin journalism lecturer Doctor Gabi Mocatta, the global pandemic proved that good, empathetic communicators are more valuable than ever before.
‘It’s never been more important to understand your audience; to know how to reach target audiences, but also know how to engage diverse audiences,’ said Mocatta.
‘Skilled strategic communicators that understand these imperatives are needed in all organisations. And in fact, all global crises can now be considered communication crises. We now understand how fundamental communication is to addressing the world’s great challenges.’
UNDERSTANDING HOW TO COMMUNICATE COMPLEX MESSAGES
Over the course of 2021, many Australians spent much of their time confused about lockdown restrictions, from social distancing measures and school closures to the classification of ‘essential worker.’
‘Information travels at speed, so it’s important to be proactive instead of reactive, especially in a crisis,’ said Mocatta.
The mixed messages by the Federal and State governments are strong examples of why understanding how to communicate complex messages is imperative in a crisis.
‘Reaching the right people at the right time and getting them to act has been one the field’s biggest challenges,’ said Mocatta.
‘This is the role effective communications should play – and that means understanding how to communicate complex messages in a timely and persuasive way to a wide variety of stakeholders. That’s no easy task and it takes a lot of knowledge and skill.
‘We understand crisis-solving skills need to be embedded in much of what we do as communicators, going forward,’ Mocatta said.
PROMOTING EFFECTIVE COMMUNICATION
In a world where crises are always around the corner, it’s important to promote effective communication.
‘Media of all kinds play key roles in interpreting and explaining risks before they happen to enable better preparedness, and then in conveying information about crisis events as they unfold on the ground,’ said Mocatta.
‘No-one wants to see a world wracked by more crises, but it does seem possible that this is the kind of world we are heading towards – with an increasing need for those skilled in crisis communication.’
As a result, good writing, versatility, multimedia and social media savviness are vital skills for future professional communicators to have.
‘I think on a personal level, integrity, empathy and being able to truly listen as well as speak persuasively are also essential skills. And, if you want to specialise in crisis communications, you’ll need a lot of resilience – and a lot of energy,’ Mocatta added.
PAVING THE WAY FOR FUTURE THOUGHT LEADERS AND INFLUENCERS
If you’re thinking of pursuing a career in communications, it’s important to find a course that will give you real-world skills, competencies and knowledge, Mocatta says.
Communication courses, like the postgraduate programs offered at Deakin University, give students the know-how to take charge of the technologies that shape our media and communications landscape. Students also gain crucial theoretical knowledge, building on the diverse and deep body of academic research in communication. This gives them the insights and reflective frameworks essential for research-backed, best practice communication work.
‘Now is such an exciting time to be a professional communicator,’ said Mocatta.
‘This is a moment when we get to tell the biggest stories, and perhaps have some positive influence on our collective ability to rise to today’s challenges. It’s a great responsibility and also a great privilege.’