Wednesday, March 22, 2006

The home for communicators

There are very few organisational communicators who are truly influential at board level. We're generally respected for our ability to craft and package message rather than for our insight into how organisations can grow and prosper.

Given that the nature of the beast is that much of our work is transactional, we tend to reside several steps away from the boardroom. These days, the options seem to be as part of HR; as part of marketing or as part of a Corporate Comms function that could report to either - or could report to the CEO.

My take is that HR is the team that likes to say no - so isn't our natural home; while marketing, be it through consumer engagement, PR or public affairs is to narrow-focused on segments of the external stakeholder constituency to have the holistic corporate view at heart.

So, where do I see us being most effective? Somewhere between the corporate brain and the corporate heartbeat.

I hate the distinction between internal and external communication. The distinction between audiences is breaking rapidly with the explosion and fragmentation of the media. So many employees are now shareholders in the business that the impact of mixed messages is more perilous than ever before. And stakeholders are simply far too savvy now to be divided and ruled by any aspect of spin that curves towards them.

Our role as communicators has to be at the heart of the decision making process in organisations.

I've sat at the top table in organisations, and they're just as subject to childish rants, insecurities and indecision as any other group anywhere within a business. The difference is that the stakes are higher, and the impact of an ill-thought-through decision can be so much greater.

So where's our home and what do we do there? We need to be part of the decision making process but almost at one remove, acting both as a conscience that reflects potential impacts and enables leaders to plot a course to the right outcome. But we need to be at the heart of the organisation too, driving for the outcomes necessary to bring about growth and being the conduit to the lifeblood.

If we're merely top table strategists, nothing will get done. If we're merely priming the pump, stuff will get done - but not necessarily the right stuff.


Ron Shewchuk said...

Great post, Mark. If you haven't already visited, there's a lively conversation about the issues you have raised going on at IABC's Employee Communications Commons, a new blog that's open to the public. Check it out at in a discussion called Should employee communications report to HR?

LeverWealth said...

Well.. Neville Hobson said visit and I did.

The role of Public Relations, that is relationships with publics, has to find its home where it changes the values between the organisation and the network which is both internal and external.

My view that an organisation is the nexus of relationships (which morph all the time) requires an expertise that understands this changing culture and facilitates its capability to leaver wealth.

It is a big job and is not about territories.