The communications leader argues that being able to write well, tell compelling stories and grasp the business strategy of your client or organizations are the keys to success.
As senior vice president of corporate communications and public affairs, Clarkson Hine has established himself as an indispensable piece of the Beam Suntory puzzle. After the 2014 acquisition of spirits producer Beam Inc. by Japanese whiskey maker Suntory, Hine was responsible for introducing the American audience to the Japanese brewing and distilling titan. He did this by finding commonalities within the brands and highlighting aspects of each brand that meshed well together, creating a cohesive image for Beam Suntory.
“We really started from a basis of what we had in common,” Hine offered in an interview with our DePaul University graduate class, “and that included both [organizations] being multi-generational family businesses, innovative leaders, [and] entrepreneurial cultures with complementary portfolios.”
Advice for rising professionals
So, what does Hine look for in rising communications professionals? How can rising pros successfully navigate the corporate world?
Hine has a few main points for younger professionals looking to “manage up” and find their place:
- No surprises. Keeping leadership in-the-know is key to performing well as a communications professional. Effective communication with C-suite leadership is ever-changing, and is currently experiencing a shift towards strategic, data-driven methods.
- Demonstrate an enterprise-wide perspective. As rising professionals establish themselves within an organization, it is crucial to gain a broader scope of that organization’s goals and needs. With executives, an informed perspective is heavily valued. Take it from Hine himself in this excerpt from his chapter in the book “Mastering Business for Strategic Communicators”: “It is imperative for the chief communications officer to work collaboratively across multiple key functions, including with strategy, legal, HR, finance, and the CEO.”
- Make yourself indispensable at every level of your career. One contemporary way a rising pro can cement themselves within a company is through digital upskilling.
Beyond that, Hine also shares what he looks for when hiring young communications professionals:
Good writers. As Hine puts it, “There aren’t enough good writers in the world.” Being able to communicate effectively via written communications is crucial to corporate communications. “In my book,” Hine says, “good writing never goes out of style.”
Professionals who can complement his own skill set. Finding young professionals who can do the things he can do or improve on other areas where his own skills may be less developed is one of Hine’s strategies for identifying rising talent. Social scientists have also supported the idea that having co-workers whose skills differ from and complement one’s own can have a significant positive impact on performance and productivity.
Being an exceptional storyteller is a significant advantage in communications. When asked what excites him the most about his position, Hine’s excitement is palpable. In our interview, he shared about the beauty of distilleries, the rich history of spirit brands that have existed for centuries and the stories of the people behind the bottles.
Storytelling has become increasingly important to brands in recent years. As Anthony Petrucci of the Forbes Communication Council states, “Storytelling in a corporate setting is a powerful tool in the hands of an open-minded, astute communications professional.”
By building trust with corporate audiences, communicators can encourage community building around their brand and engage the public in a way that humanizes the company.
Know the business
Beyond his skills as a communicator, Hine is a well-rounded business leader. A member of Beam Suntory’s management team, his eye for corporate strategic vision, execution and brand cohesion makes his perspective essential.
Now more than ever, Hine believes that brands with the power to bring people together like Beam Suntory have a responsibility to share their stories and meet the public need for connectedness.
Ethan Long is a graduate student studying Communication and Media at DePaul University. An avid supporter of higher education, he is actively pursuing a career in university communications and public relations.
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