A Q&A interview with Lucy Newcomb – Director Salt & Shein Business / News

Lucy is one of Australia’s most well-regarded and influential executive recruiters and talent advisers in the corporate affairs, communication, government relations and investor relations space. Lucy has a reputation for always finding the right person for the right role and is a respected strategic business partner to her clients.

We sat down with Lucy to discuss the current comms environment, how roles are shaping up, what skills are required for the future and why comms professionals are needed more than ever.

Thanks for joining us Lucy – first off what trends are you seeing emerge in the comms recruitment space during COVID-19?

I’m quietly optimistic for the corporate affairs community, no one has a crystal ball and of course some sectors are impacted more than others but comms professionals are needed more than ever; leaders and executives need the backing and support of their trusted communication advisors, the shift to virtual meetings and at home working requires skilled internal and external communication and professionals who can enable transformation/adoption of new technologies and new ways of working, organisation restructures require thoughtful and well considered comms strategies, crisis and change management is needed more than ever and strategic planning has accelerated as change is happening in a heartbeat.

Internal communications has been elevated to rockstar status! Over time we will share experiences and learnings and have a lot to learn from each other.

There is an increasing demand for government affairs professionals as organisations acknowledge the importance on sophisticated engagement government and industry.

Investor Relations is another growing area, as Boards and Executive Leadership teams look to increase their engagement with investors during these uncertain times. Tech stocks in particular have rallied and CEO’s with a desire to bring this function in-house.

Are you seeing any changes in permanency of roles?

I’m having a lot of conversations around contract versus permanent roles, yes, we’re seeing an uptick in contracting but across the majority of sectors communication teams are continuing to recruit permanent roles to support busy teams with an ever-increasing demand on their resources.

This isn’t the GFC, this is a health as well as economic crisis, for communication professionals the mantra is often – never let a good crisis go to waste; the benefit of communication professionals is that they can be interchangeable between industries, the skills in one industry are easily transferable to another. Gone are the days where you are pigeonholed into an industry, great communications professionals are able to traverse sectors to fill the demands.  Exposure to frontline, highly regulated, consumer facing brands is increasingly valuable as all organisations focus on customer experience

How are comms professional coping?

My concern is around ensuring our comms professionals are resilient and looking after themselves; both for their mental and physical health. The work demands are higher than ever. Of course we are in a major health crisis but this extends to mental health. As people have been working from home we’re seeing little delineation between home and work. People are juggling more than ever and so ensuring a good reset between home and work is key.

Should we be specialists or generalists?

This question follows comms professionals around all the time not just in our COVID-19 world. There’s no easy answer and it all depends; it depends on if you are working in a team how the corporate affairs team is set up, if you are independent how you are structuring your expertise and where you are in your career. My feeling is that all comms professionals need to stay close to their tools and a good strategy.

There is no doubt we see the blurring between internal and external communication; in that all internal comms should be seen through a lens of how this message would land externally whether it was intended to or not.  When I’m recruiting I’m looking beyond skills to find my clients the wow factor – so in a way you could say I look for specialist attributes but general qualities.

How are the proposed changes in the Commonwealth and student contributions going to impact the profession?

If the initiative is supported then communication and humanities students will sadly end up paying more for their studies. COVID-19 has highlighted the stark differences between planned and considered communication and those on the flipside. Communication skills have been critical not only for organisations and governments but also for the country. We know that the skills needed for the future, skills such as; analytical thinking, creative problem solving, leadership, emotional intelligence and negotiation are often ones that comms professionals excel in. The worry is around how this will impact diversity and inclusion across the sector and equal access to the sort of humanities and communication degrees that we need more than ever.   

Lucy Newcomb and the Salt & Shein team are key sponsors of IABC NSW, with decades of experience they have developed deep knowledge and understanding of the local and international corporate affairs, marketing and communication market. Reach out to Lucy or the team if you have any questions or want access to Australia’s best employers.

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