Q5: Marcus Sorour on the changing face of corporate comms [interview]
by Carey Finn (@carey_finn) Marcus Sorour (@marcussorour), a South African living in London and the recently appointed head of corporate communications for EMEA for technology company, F5 Networks, talks evolving skillsets, the role of social platforms, and media relations in the age of the influencer.
Q5: What skillsets are required of corporate communications professionals today, compared to 10–15 years ago?
Marcus Sorour: Corporate communications and the channels available to reach stakeholders will continue to evolve; therefore, continuous education is crucial to be a trusted advisor within an organisation. From a skillset perspective, modern corporate communications professionals should have a well-rounded understanding of how to get the most from the tools and multiple channels available to them to authentically and credibly engage with both internal and external stakeholders.
Traditional corporate communications professionals will need to upskill in order to realise the benefits of an integrated strategic approach to informing, influencing, and listening to stakeholders across earned, owned, organic social, and experiential channels. This engagement should be underpinned by content that is mapped to the audience and optimised for search engines. Modern corp comms also requires an appreciation for measurement, as per the guidelines created by the Association for Measurement and Evaluation of Communication (AMEC).
I see corporate communications professionals playing an integral role in orchestrating internal and external stakeholder strategy, content and engagement by collaborating more closely with colleagues across marketing, sales and product development departments. I also believe corporate communications professionals should be able to coach spokespeople and organise content-related workshops to generate storylines. It’s important to bring in specialists from time to time but not everything needs to be outsourced, as running these workshops keeps comms professionals connected to spokespeople, and in sync with the storylines that work across earned, organic social and owned channels.
To keep up to date, I suggest exploring both formal and informal learning options. I listen to podcast series, read trade publications, attend meetups, watch webinars and reach out to people to set up coffee. I believe practice and simulation is also a critical part of the learning process, especially ahead of potential issues or crisis.
Q5: Speaking specifically about corporate spokespeople, what would you say businesses should look for in candidates for this role?
MS: “The harder I practice, the luckier I get,” is a well-known quote from the world of golf; the same applies to spokespeople. An understanding of the interviewers’ requirements and deploying bridging techniques will allow even the most-inexperienced spokesperson to thrive. Not everyone is a natural spokesperson but the most-effective spokespeople are good listeners who concisely articulate a view of the market while effortlessly inserting their narrative into an answer.
Q5: How has social media and a global news cycle impacted corporate communications?
MS: Social media and the global news cycle have both impacted every facet of our society and the economy; therefore, smart corporate communicators are using the digital tools and channels available to them to improve how they engage with stakeholders with credible content. Social-listening tools and analytics allow organisations to be more audience-centric and improve decision-making from both a business strategy and communications perspective. The global news cycle means corporate communications teams need to be agile and responsive. Organisations should be prepared for eventualities — from receiving praise to managing crises. Investing in crisis preparation and simulation is worthwhile, given a local issue could easily escalate if not managed decisively and thoughtfully.
Q5: How can companies effectively manage media relations in an age of non-journalist “influencers”?
MS: As corp comms people, we are in the business of reputation management and influence. All stakeholders are potential influencers; therefore, the content available on company social media channels and websites must be current, relevant, and accessible. A newsroom page on a website is a good example of an owned channel to share information 24/7. In terms of influencer engagement, I suggest determining the actual influence of individuals or groups. It’s important to remember this exercise is not just a numbers game. In the business-to-business (B2B) space, not all influencers are prolific on social media — and you may find some of the most-important people you target are influential within niche communities or groups. A considered engagement plan mapped to the needs of the influencer will ensure your spokespeople and organisation build trust with an individual over time.
Q5: What advice would you share with youngsters looking to track into your career field?
MS: I recommend creating a personal elevator pitch that serves as the basis for a CV, LinkedIn profile, and internship interview narrative. This document should be completed as soon as possible, as it provides a solid foundation to build on. I recommend reading trade outlets like MarkLives, listening to podcasts, and attending industry events. Landing an internship takes time; therefore, start early and tailor your outreach so you stand out from the crowd. Most importantly, keep knocking on doors until one opens. The more work experience you get, the better!
- Find out more about Sorour on LinkedIn.
Carey Finn (@carey_finn) is a writer and editor with a decade and a half of industry experience, having covered everything from ethical sushi in Japan to the technicalities of roofing, agriculture, medical stuff and more. She’s also taught English and journalism, and dabbled in various other communications ventures along the way, including risk reporting. As a contributing writer to MarkLives.com, her new regular column “Q5” aims to hone in on strategic insights, analysis and data through punchy interviews with experts in media, marketing and design.