There is an old adage, good comms is good business, but is the inverse true? Indeed how do you define good business?
Recently I’ve been reading about how diversity in teams makes them perform better. Companies in the top quartile for racial and ethnic diversity are 35 per cent more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians, while companies in the top quartile for gender diversity are 15 per cent more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians. There are lots of reasons for this, but for me it can be distilled down to one thing – perspective. The more view points you have, the better your understanding, and the more effective the output.
This perspective is the reason why there are many who say you shouldn’t work in marketing until you’ve worked in sales, the belief being you need an appreciation for the outworking of marketing to understand how to best engineer the right catalyst. I’d like to put it out there that there is a similar condition at work when it comes to the value of great comms coming from those that understand business. Business management disciplines like human resources, financial and legal governance all feed better comms in the right environment, namely one that sees communications as a strategic enabler of organisations. Begs the question why there is not more of an emphasis on this when public relations students are doing their undergraduate studies…
So what then do good business people bring to professional communications that should be emulated in a learning environment that betters the industry as a whole?
People management is critical: In any environment – whether that be your internal team and/or your agency, knowing how to lead a team of people with varying skills and personalities towards a common goal is the difference between success and failure of any comms campaign. This business skill therefore is symbiotic when it comes to comms.
Being able to sell an idea into people matters: Regardless of your industry you need to be able to sell ideas into people if you want their buy in. Pitching and presenting is therefore a skill of immense value, not just to get an idea off the ground, but to have it properly funded and supported by people in other business units.
Respect is invaluable: Understanding the mechanics of business is often the difference to being heard at the C-suite or not. You need that respect to be effective. Without it you simply spin your wheels. Respect is built on trust and mutual appreciation and far more common among peers. Specialist skills are advantageous, but not in isolation.
Critical thinking must be infused in your DNA: In business your performance is measured by your ability to see and secure opportunities. This means being able to network and ask the right questions of these relationships. This leadership quality should inform comms strategy if it is to truly fulfil its potential.
Good comms is as much about numbers as words and imagery: Being comfortable with numbers is not just where the industry is moving, but where it is. Big data analytics is enabling social content to spread and architect behaviour internally and externally. As a principle of business management, knowing your way around formulas in a P&L Excel perfectly positions a comms pro for success.
Motivation makes a world of difference: In business you need to be able to motivate individuals and teams. In comms you also have to have this skill to motivate your team or agency to go bigger – so they test and stretch their thinking without feeling they are being de-positioned. This is a real art. At the end of the day comms is about influence, and motivation is the flip side of that coin. If you don’t have the right perspective there is no way you can do it properly.
– My name is Aaron Crowther. Follow me on Twitter @ascommstweeter