Re.: Having a Seat at the Table

For far too long, we, the communicators, have not had a seat at the table. In internal communications, we would passionately complain about our inability to join the important C-suite conversations, yet we would cheerfully publish whatever messages senior management ordered us to distribute without thinking any further.

Some senior managers have already embraced the cultural change towards flat hierarchies, the ongoing dialogue with various publics and the uncontrollable exchange of opinions online. But a lot of us communicators have not yet realized that our home turf has also fundamentally changed: Not only do we have to cope with the 24/7 news cycle, use video instead of text heavy statements, embrace the ongoing shift from desktop to mobile computing. Anybody out there who has had some employees engaging in passionate online discussions or even revealing company secrets via Facebook and Twitter?

Nowadays, we have to monitor everything that is going on in and around our organization, put it into perspective and translate the meaning into business lingo so that senior managers can understand it.

In this world, communications is increasingly becoming a key player between C-suite and the rest of the world. However, we have to work hard to justify this role. Hiding behind the simple equation

Employees Informed by Internal Communications = More Engaged and Thus More Productive

does not work. We have to constantly question our role in order to not only do the things right, but to actually do the right things. We must focus on the business value of everything we are doing in order to merit the status of trusted advisors. And we have to find solid metrics to prove without reasonable doubt that we are actually contributing to the success of the organization. Otherwise some simple sales figures can easily reveal the exact opposite.

But what exactly are the appropriate KPIs?

No More Corporate Communications. It’s About Public Relations.

I admit it: I am greatly influenced by tons of readings on the topic. But more and more I feel that my understanding of the two expressions “communications” and “public relations” is shifting.

Until fairly recently I considered communications – or corporate communications if you like – as the overarching and more powerful concept than public relations. Public relations, in my opinion, was the part where you would do your job happily planning and communicating (and, at least in some smart organizations…)  also handle strategic aspects of corporate communications.

But then Grunig (and others) tried to convince me that public relations and communication are synonyms.
I won’t argue with Mr. Grunig. But the longer I think about it, the more I feel that corporate communications is a rather tactical task while public relations is taking care of relationships with publics, which, basically, is very strategic. So PR is the dominant discipline and communications execute what PR, in line with the other folks from the C-suite, defined as the strategy.

What do I take away? I am no longer a communication professional. I am a PR guy!