Discover your place in the world of communication

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Multiple routes, one destination: Your success as a communication professional

All of us, throughout our professional career, have the opportunity to learn and grow either consciously or unconsciously through additional training and/or experiences. In a field as broad, diverse and constantly evolving as communication, it is even more enriching.

Throughout my career, I have discovered that communicating goes beyond conveying messages; it is an art that involves listening, understanding and connecting. Perhaps you are a recent graduate in journalism or communication (congratulations and welcome to the sector!) and you are wondering how and why you need to specialise or reorient your professional project. Whatever your profile is, I have been there and I would like to accompany you in this process that at first sight may seem complicated and lonely. 

In 2006 I discovered the workings of European political institutions, and became interested in the role of communication in international relations and sustainable development. Today, almost 20 years later, I am standing in front of a blank piece of paper to share some of my learnings and experiences with you.

Weaving webs of words: The art of communicating with purpose

There are as many different ways of communicating as there are purposes. Raising awareness is not the same as influencing, informing or empowering. You are probably wondering how one niche differs from another, and how you can know what will be most rewarding and effective for you.

Discovering your place in communication can be both a challenge and an adventure. Each person has a unique set of skills, passions and experiences that can be applied effectively in different areas of communication.

Shall we find out together? 

Identifying your strengths and passions

One of the most rewarding and enriching facets of my career is helping to discover the strengths and passions of people interested in the field of communication. Through one-on-one counselling sessions, we will explore together the different facets of communication to identify those that resonate most with you. Whether you lean towards public relations, awareness, behaviour change, advocacy or any other area, my goal is to help you find that space where your voice and skills can shine.

Applying your skills in the real world

Once you have identified your area of interest, the next step is to learn how to apply your skills in the real world. Here, I provide you with practical guidance and real-world examples of how these skills translate into tangible results in the development field. I help you understand how your contributions can influence policy, change behaviour and improve people’s lives.

My personal experience

In 2002, when I started my journalism studies, I wanted to change the world. Four years later, while I was taking a training course on the EU organised by several European institutions and the International Press Centre of the city of Barcelona, I realised that my path was not in the traditional media but in the field of international relations. At that time, not many of us shared that dream, but those of us who did, supported each other.

This is how I started, and I also had the pleasure and good fortune to meet and get to know a person during this training who encouraged me and set me on the path to grow in this sector. 

In 2010, I decided to move to the European capital and train in the field I was interested in, international relations. Since then, my life has taken a complete turn in which I have proactively worked in different sectors and performed different functions in the diverse field of sustainable development communication. 

I am passionate about my work and I love to share it with those who, like me, are always looking to improve and grow in their professional careers, even if it is often not easy. Without going any further, almost ten years after becoming a consultant, there are still acquaintances (and even family members) who don’t know how to describe my work, and I don’t blame them. Although it is a diverse, demanding and enriching sector, it is also a sector that is often left in the shadows.

For this reason, I have decided to reveal another side of me that fills me with passion and complements my professional experience: being your mentor. I am here to guide and support you in the fascinating world of communication, a universe that transcends far beyond simple publications on social networks or the occasional organisation of events.

Shall I join you?

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Exploring the branches of communication

When communicating, it is crucial to remember that it is not the medium but the purpose that defines the method. This goal-centred approach is our lighthouse when specialising in this area of social science. Through this objective, we will choose the techniques and determine the competencies necessary for the communication professional.

In this context, the communicator does not seek to be an all-encompassing ‘unicorn’, but rather a specialist able to use his or her specific skills to make a significant impact.

With this in mind, we will explore some of the trends in communication for sustainable development, each with its own set of techniques and competencies, reflecting the diversity and richness of the field.

  • Public Relations: In development, public relations focuses on managing public perception and media relations. This includes creating press releases, organising public appearances and managing the public image of development initiatives. It is essential for building and maintaining public trust and ensuring that development messages reach the intended audience effectively.
  • Awareness-Raising: This function involves raising public awareness of development issues through campaigns, educational programmes, events and media production. It is instrumental in informing and educating the public on critical issues, thereby fostering greater understanding and support for development initiatives.
  • Behaviour Change Communication: Here, the focus is on developing communication strategies to influence and change community behaviours. It uses communication as a tool to promote positive changes in behaviour and attitudes, which is crucial to the success of many development programmes.
  • Advocacy in development involves influencing policy, resource allocation and decision-making processes within political, economic and social systems. This can include lobbying and policy briefing, and is vital for promoting legislative and policy changes that support development objectives.
  • Information Dissemination: This area focuses on sharing relevant information through various channels to inform and educate stakeholders and the public on development issues. It is an essential part of development communication, ensuring that critical information reaches those who need it.
  • Knowledge Management: Involves collecting, managing, sharing and using knowledge and information in development work. This includes research and evaluation and is key to ensuring that lessons learned and best practices are shared and used to continuously improve development programmes.
  • Public Diplomacy: In development, public diplomacy focuses on building and maintaining a positive international image and fostering mutual understanding to advance foreign policy and international development objectives.
  • Participatory Communication: This function involves engaging communities and stakeholders in dialogue and decision-making processes, ensuring that their voices are heard and considered. It is fundamental to ensuring that development programmes are inclusive and reflect the needs and perspectives of those they are intended to serve.

Challenges and opportunities in development communication

Each of these development communication functions has its own set of challenges and opportunities. Understanding these different areas can help practitioners and aspiring communicators identify where they can best apply their skills and passions to make a meaningful difference in the world.

  1. Diversity of languages and perspectives: One of the biggest challenges is effective communication between professionals from different disciplines. Specialists in technical areas, such as engineers or scientists, and communication professionals often have different ways of understanding and approaching problems. It is crucial to find a common language that enables effective collaboration.
  2. Connecting policy and practice: Policy decisions made in centres of power such as Brussels, Geneva or New York often need to be adapted to local realities. This gap between high-level policy and its implementation on the ground presents unique challenges and opportunities for communicators.
  3. Resistance to change: Despite the increasing focus on empowerment and collaboration, some stakeholders are reluctant to abandon the traditional “aid” model. Changing this mindset is a slow process and a unique opportunity for major change, which requires strategic and sensitive communication.
  4. Competition between organisations: Competition for resources and visibility can lead to a lack of transparency and collaboration between organisations. This can hamper the effectiveness of communication and development efforts.

 

In my career, I have faced these challenges first hand. I have worked with multidisciplinary teams, where the key has been to translate technical concepts into language that is accessible and relevant to all. I have learned that effective communication is about more than “embellishing” a message; it is about understanding and connecting with different perspectives.

In international projects, I have seen how global policies must be carefully adapted to local contexts. This requires not only technical knowledge, but also cultural sensitivity and a deep understanding of local communities.

I have observed resistance to change in a number of contexts, where the idea of empowerment and collaboration clashes with traditional models of support. In these cases, persuasive and evidence-based communication has been instrumental in promoting a change of mindset.

Finally, competition between organisations is a reality in the sector. I have worked to foster transparency and collaboration, demonstrating that sharing knowledge and resources can lead to more effective and sustainable results.

The evolution of communication

Communication, as a reflection of our society, has undergone a radical transformation in recent decades. This change has been driven by the digital revolution, which has altered not only how we communicate, but also the very nature of our message and audience.

In the 1990s and early 2000s, communication was dominated by traditional media: television, radio and print media. These media offered a one-way flow of information, where the audience was mainly a passive receiver. The advent of the Internet and, later, of social media, changed the landscape. Communication became more interactive, with an audience not only consuming content, but also creating and sharing it.

This shift brought with it an initial optimism about the democratising potential of the internet. It was hoped that social networks and digital platforms would allow for broader participation and more open dialogue. However, this idealistic vision soon came up against reality. Information began to be used not only to inform, but also to influence and sometimes manipulate.

In the development arena, these changes have had a significant impact. In the early 2010s, there was palpable optimism about how the digital world and social media could facilitate participation and dialogue on global development issues. But, as in other sectors, this field has not been immune to the challenges brought about by the digital age.

A clear example of this shift was observed after events such as WikiLeaks in 2018. These events marked a turning point, bringing international actors back to more strategic and controlled communication. Communication in digital development, which was beginning to integrate open and participatory communication, started to focus more on controlling the message and managing information for a favourable public perception

This approach has overshadowed crucial aspects of communication, such as active listening and feedback, which are essential to truly understand the needs and perspectives of the communities we work with.

In my personal experience, I have observed how the digitalisation of communication has profoundly influenced the norms, values, working methods and structures of institutions active in sustainable development. This process, well described in Ilan Manor‘s book ‘The Digitalization of Public Diplomacy’, has brought about a significant paradigm shift. During this transition, organisations have had to adapt to new working methods and styles, creating different styles and sometimes imbalances in communication.

Some actors have successfully managed digital dialogue, while others combine this approach with more traditional methods of disseminating information through the media. However, there are those who, aware of the risks of digital openness, choose to limit themselves to disseminating messages that reflect only their vision in passive consumption channels.

The future of communication in development

Today we are seeing that technology and geopolitics are once again shaping changes on the communication horizon. It is difficult to predict what the communication of the future will look like, but experience tells me that it is not enough to understand the tools and/or be aware of technological trends. The professional of the future must adapt to change also at the cultural level and the human context to evolve. Some of the challenges we face are: 

  • Technological advances and communication

Artificial intelligence (AI) and emerging technologies are redefining the way we communicate and share information. These tools can help analyse large volumes of data, identify trends and needs, and personalise messages for specific audiences. However, they also present ethical and practical challenges, such as data privacy and the need to maintain genuine and empathetic communication.

  • Geopolitics and global communication

Geopolitical changes also influence communication for development. International relations, conflicts and humanitarian crises require communication that is sensitive and adapted to complex and changing contexts. Communicators must be aware of these dynamics and be able to respond with messages that are relevant and respectful.

 

Looking to the future and in this evolving context, I encourage emerging communicators to adopt an open and adaptable mindset. Continuous training, curiosity and a willingness to learn from diverse experiences will be your key to success.

And this is where my role as a mentor and guide can make a difference, helping you find your way in this exciting world with confidence, combining technological innovation with an understanding of human needs and perspectives. 

Laura helping a new communicator in her career

Conclusion

I invite you to reflect on your own path in communication. If you are interested in learning more or need advice on how to start or advance your career in communication, do not hesitate to contact me.

With my Knowledge Sharing service, we can discover together the sector that best suits your passions and skills.

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