Q&A with Jessica Tompkinson

27th April 2020

Q: How do you think Covid 19 will affect the communications industry moving forward?

A: The past few months now, I believe, we have seen a big shift and now, more than ever that the public are watching closely how businesses and organisations communicate what they are doing, how they are engaging with staff (and treating them), but also how responsible they are being with information being shared. It has been fascinating watching where businesses are doing well, but then also where sadly some have fallen short or misread the situation.

An example has been backlash with businesses wanting to take tax payer money for furloughing when their founders are wealthy and as a communicator, watching what their PR teams do and navigating this unchartered water is showcasing thinking on your feet! Who isn’t learning on the job right now?

Whilst communications is fast moving, constantly changing, forever evolving, and that won’t change - there are a couple of thoughts around the ‘future of comms’ which is based what I’ve seen, heard and spoken to fellow comms professionals about. There will be a rise of ESG areas being important for companies with investors, stakeholder and members of the public scruntizing companies probably more than ever - so I’m sure we will see a greater rise of importance in comms colleagues supporting this.

Marketing / communications is an interesting one. I’ve heard of comms teams being laid off / furloughed but marketing teams staying on - I’m curious as to why an organisation thinks marketing is more important than PR say, when the two are so often intrinsically linked. Marketing comms has always been ‘paid for’ to sell your product. PR has often been about earning media and column inches - I think it is an ‘interesting’ move when companies lay off their whole comms teams. Your comms teams will always be able to protect your business with the media - marketing I’m not so sure.

I also believe there aren’t enough Public Affairs / Coporate Comms people out there supporting some of these smaller organisations and companies who probably don’t have an in-house person or agency. I’ve seen some broadcast interviews which have had the potential to be amazing for these organisations if they’d perhaps had a bit of comms coaching (but that is probably the last thing on their mind!). This is perhaps where some volunteering or pro-bono support can come in to play from agencies or furloughed colleagues.

What this means for the next six to 12 months for communicators - businesses of all sizes will always need great communicators. I think there will be more opportunities coming through it is just going to take time for things to ‘settle in to the new normal’. For those hunting for a new role or finding themselves with a bit of extra time - I think it’s about staying positive and thinking about what you can control and do to enhance the situation we are in. I for one and using my ‘down time' (aka when I used to be out for dinner with friends) to look at building up my skills in other areas such as doing online courses in copywriting. I’ve just completed Google’s digital classes SEO and SEM and really enjoyed them for a bit of a brush up and a deeper dive on a few areas in SEM.

For those who have been made redundant or on furlough - I would suggest, and no surprise, trying to use your skills to help others right now. Small charities and businesses are really needing extra help when it comes to content and messaging. Mentoring more junior colleagues and peers is perhaps another angle to keep you motivated and engaged. It’s really hard though to know what the future will hold - but holding on to the great work you’ve done, the skills you have and how these can help others right now is a good starting point for the next adventure.

Q: Are there any particular books/ podcasts you have been enjoying?

A: I have been really enjoying ‘How I Built This’ with Guy Raz - well worth a listen!

Books, I’ve just started ‘My Dark Vanessa’ by Kate Elizabeth Russell - it’s excellent so far. I’ve also been revisiting some of my childhood favourites, ‘The Faraway Tree’ by Enid Blyton is just magical.

Q: Where will be your first holiday destination?

A: This is a really hard one as I think we’ll probably wait until things are a little more settled before jetting off long haul. I’m super keen to go to the coast of Wales though and have a bit of a UK break. If I can get on a plane somewhere in Europe in the coming months - Tuscany is on my list still so would love to get there and enjoy some great wine and pasta.

Q: In what area of comms do you see the first uptick happening?

A: I have noticed there seems to be more marketing and communications roles being advertised for tech and pharma companies, with a big focus on digital. There are definitely PR roles in agencies for healthcare out there too. Perhaps one of the larger challenges I’ve seen is roles being advertised that aren’t actually being recruited for right now, or companies getting so many applications for roles doing sifts is really hard. Perhaps that’s where recruitment consultants really come in to play as they know candidates well and can find a good match.