In days gone by, a generalist had a functional understanding of communications practices across various mediums in order to either define or solve a general communications problem. At the foundational level, the generalist was a writer and researcher. Today, generalists have to be storytellers with a great supporting cast of the right mix of words, and the most ingenious ideas that can compete for a larger portion of market share, money, and attention. And speaking of attention, the generalist needs to be so creative that the content has to be an experience in itself that is innovative and engaging enough to inform and persuade the company, the brand, and the consumer.

Enter the digital culture of the 21st century complete with an overabundance of messages, catchphrases, logos, clichés, and brand presence using far more communications channels. The modern-day generalist has to be a listener in order to know the audience – soup to nuts, heart and soul. The generalist needs to know how the audience speaks, what influences them, who and what they trust, how they can best be served, and where and how they acquire information. In this way, the generalist can tailor messages that get people talking and sharing information actively, and even passively.

But the conventional tools, such as Websites, press releases and media alerts, are no longer sufficient. These days, the generalist uses blogs, social networking, streaming video, RSS, SEO, podcasts and mobile alerts to relay a compelling and intimate story to a very intelligent and tech-savvy audience across age, race and economics. So not only does the modern-day generalist need to be a great listener and storyteller, but also a problem-solver who can accurately address the how-to of communications.

The medium choices of the communications generalist have to be thoughtful, careful, and able to successfully compete for audience attention, time, and every piece of content that exists out there. So the challenge is creating communications that serve as an experience that is direct, specific, and personal to the individual audience member, but also collective to the audience as a group. This is not an easy task, but the plethora of communications tools available to the generalist in the 21st century should make the journey rewarding and memorable. Generalists take your mark, and get set.

Ty Kelley, PhD