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What We Learned at GCF 2020

Events & Awards

What We Learned at GCF 2020

The Global Capability Framework (GCF) research symposium was held on Thursday, at the Media One Hotel, Dubai, by the academic professionals of Zayed University, to present and discuss the findings of the research with the communication professionals in the UAE.

Communicate attended the event and got the opportunity to chat with Professor Anne Gregory, chief of corporate communication at the University of Huddersfield, UK, to learn more about the framework.

What is the Global capability framework?

The GCF is being driven by the practice of Public Relations and communications around the world. There’s no international benchmark which describes the profession and how it’s undertaken across the world. The idea behind the framework is to get a common understanding of what the industry is responsible for worldwide. [Communication] practitioners are working more globally now and having a common understanding of what is the scope of the profession is essential.

How do you create a framework like that?

We had to try and find out the similarities and differences in practice from different parts of the world. The countries that we chose; represented every continent, and we worked with researchers who were familiar with the practice, not just in the country but in the continent. The idea then was that; if we understood the practice from those country perspectives, we could then come together and decide what the commonalities and differences are, from a world perspective. But, it’s the commonalities that constitute the global framework.

According to the study, the top 10 capabilities of the UAE’s communication industry are as follows :

  1. Reputation
  2. Strategy
  3. Professionalism
  4. Relationship building
  5. Crisis Management
  6. Provide contextual intelligence
  7. Creating key messages and media content
  8. Digital and social media efforts
  9. Internal communication
  10. Skills: interpersonal and team

Why the need to adopt a more global approach now? 

It came from the group of people we were working with. We’re very aware that most of the literature on the subject originates from the west, and the curriculum that is taught is western-centric on the whole. We must hear other voices. We must have something that is more reflective of the practice, from around the world. It was almost a given in the group of people we were working with. We can’t help where we’re born but we can be aware that there are other world views and other perspectives, which are important and should be included. That’s what we tried to do by spreading the research out around the world, rather than just sitting at our desks and having wonderful thoughts.

Professor Anne also presented data on the skills needed for the future in the PR and Communications industry after the implementation of AI. The findings which were taken from a McKinsey study are as follows :

  • The need for Physical and Manual skills will drop by 14%
  • The need  for basic cognitive skills will drop by 15%
  • The need  for higher cognitive skills will rise by 8%
  • The need  for social and emotional skills will rise by 24%
  • The need for technological skills will rise by 55%

You seem optimistic about the automation of the PR industry, Why?

In many ways, it will take out some of the repetitive and more boring work [from the job.] Some of the work, we will be assisted by AI such as audience identification, understanding audience behavior, etc. There we have to be careful because we have to make sure data doesn’t drive our decision-making process but we use it for making decisions. But if you look at the things that are left for us to do such as high-level counsel, getting involved in determining the purpose and values of organizations, I’d rather be doing that than researching press release lists. It releases us to do more high-value work: doing the communication research, knowing which audiences to speak to, usually gets pushed to one side because they take up a lot of time. Working with AI means, we get to devote more time to those small strategic elements.

What the top three skills and capabilities you would recommend PR and Communication majors to work on?

One –  Contextual intelligence: which means to have an understanding of what’s happening in your environment. When you work for organizations, understanding what’s going on around, changes in society, etc is really important. The job of a communicator includes listening to people and if you can be the ears and eyes of the organization, and bring that intelligence into the organization to [the top management ], it can ultimately help drive organizations to behave differently.

Second – The art of listening and the people you listen to is very important. Instead of going to the same influential people, getting a variety of perspectives and voices is key. Another important factor is to listen with respect even if you don’t agree with people there are still some points which may be important to learn and understand.

Third – Undertaking a more strategic role within the organization: Being the guardian of what the organization stands for and its values, understanding what’s going on inside and making sure the story that is being told is actually lived.

How does a student of the subject learn and develop on that undertaking of a strategic role?

Quite profoundly, I think we need to change the curriculum. Basic communication should still be there but we need to start teaching subjects such as Philosophy which talks about ethics, making rational arguments, understanding what motivates people, empathy. Anthropology is another subject that [should be included]. [Learning] about how society functions, where did communities come from and why do they have the cultures that they have. I think we need to introduce topics like that into the communication curriculum. A lot of the work that is being done in universities is preparing students for entry-level jobs, that are going to disappear because of automation. So, if you’re going to prepare them to [embark] a more strategic role, they’re going to have to understand what makes human beings, organizations, and society tick.

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