Communication, is it more skills than science?

In Blog, DevCom, Ideas on April 16, 2009 by Jim

Back when I was working for an international organisation, I often hear my colleagues trying to tone down the importance of communications staff in most projects. Whether this is driven by economics or something else is everybody’s guess.

Communicating with people might require some skills but is communication management, in general, a ‘common sense’ skills? Paolo Mefalopulos makes a good point as to why there’s a need for communication professionals to step in a number of interventions especially development ones.

He noted the suggestion of a renowned Latin American communication scholar, Luis Ramiro Beltran, to rename communication specialists as ‘communicologist’. Mefalopulos said that this will be a good distinction from other professions and highlights the importance of being a communication specialist. He noted that there is a trend for organisations to hire a media-related professional for a communication management job, however, managing development communication intervention requires a number of professional skills.

He lists the following knowledge, competencies and skills that a good ‘communicologist’ should posses:

  • deeper knowledge of the theoretical body of knowledge on communication and its various branches such as political communication, mass communication, communication research, participatory communication [and development communication among others]
  • able to apply communication effectively in all sorts of situations the communicologist should be familiar with the basic principles of a number of other discipline, namely anthropology, ethnography, sociology, political economy, adult education and participatory approaches.
  • [communicologists involved in development initiatives should also be familiar or have basic knowledge in agriculture, computer science and economics].
  • the communicologist would need to be familiar with the development field and the project cycle, in order to conduct assessments and develop strategy that from their inceptions use communication to engage stakeholders and define objectives, thus making the planning and implementation more effective and sustainable.
  • the communicologist should have the right attitude, one of the rarest commodities to be found in many specialists. S/he should be ready and willing to listen, listen and then listen again, before even trying to understand, assess and propose solutions. S/he should have a high degree of empathy towards the stakeholders groups involved in the process of change. S/he should be willing to use two-way communication to build trust, achieve mutual understanding, mediate and seek consensus on issues that need to be improved.

In this age, communication has evolved from being just a tool of information but to a tool for development.


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