Why Comms Pros are in the perfect position to advise the CEO on strategy. Do you have what it takes?
In my first Blog post here I mentioned a thought that stayed with me well after attending the World PR Forum in Melbourne last year – how comms pros should be creating reality, not simply shaping perception.
Some would have you believe perception is reality. Oscar Wilde once famously said: “We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.” We must remember though, perspective is not perception. While a relationship exists between the two, the only thing that is real, is in fact, reality.
If you polish a glass door such that it looks like a clear passage, regardless of whether someone perceives there to be no door, has nothing to do with their ability to walk through it. It is only with the understanding that you need to slide the door to one side which allows progress. This is what a comms pro should aspire for in emancipating their organisation.
It all begins with putting up your hand and being bold:
Advise on strategy: Aren’t you listening? Don’t you think your input might be helpful, nay critical to share with new product development? What about the delivery of new services by the creation of unique business units… Doesn’t it make more sense to be different, than to somehow try and reverse-engineer a point of difference after the fact?
Take a number: Money makes the world go ’round. Ever wonder why a sales manager seems to have the ear of the CEO! It’s because he understands how to portray his worth as a balance sheet line item. There are lots of ways you can monetise your contribution as a comms pro – lead-conversation traceable through social media activities; share of voice expansion; or even staff satisfaction! If intangible assets like ‘brand’ have a recognisable value, you need to understand how you contribute to that!
Be seen: Good PR happens in the shadows. You aren’t out to be in the headlines yourself, but unless you are highly visible within your organisation, no-one really knows how the headline came about, and they need to. If you are the architect of outcomes, people need to make the connection and they don’t do it by osmosis. If you aren’t joining the dots for them, it’s likely you won’t be invited to meetings you really should be at. If that’s your reality, you are in a spot of trouble.
Say “no”: There is a saying – “some things won’t shine, no matter how much Windex you use“. In actual fact, the saying is a little more crude, but I’ll leave that alone. The point is, get involved. You shouldn’t think you have to PR the unPRable. Nor, should you be the mop and bucket man. Saying no is a brave thing to do, but life is all about decisions and business is no different. By definition, a decision has to have a counterpoint to “yes”. Being a check and balance is a part of a comms pro’s job. I’m not saying “no” should on the ready at the tip of your tongue – have an open mind, but realise you can, and have a responsibility to on occasion, push back.
When it boils down to it, the main perception that needs shaping is amongst comms pros who are limiting their own potential by believing a lie – that is, they are painters, not builders. It’s time comms pros realised how much reality they are responsible for! C.S. Lewis writes: “What you see and what you hear depends a great deal on where you are standing. It also depends on what sort of person you are.” I think this is a perfect lesson for comms pros who need to realise there is a seat at the executive table for them if they want it, but they also have to believe they are as valuable as every other participant seated there.