A group of about 40 of our senior staff from across the country recently came together to war game our company’s three year goal. Using Jim Collins methodology for defining Big Hairy Audacious Goals (BHAG) we wanted to develop something that was lasting and inspirational. What we came up with was that in three years Hill+Knowlton will have redefined the value of communication to its clients.

Our current vision statement—–developed over 15 years ago—–is that H&K must be the leader in the business of strategic communications. I was struck by how relevant our goal was to this vision. Moreover I noted that earlier in the week, one of our competitors, Richard Edelman gave an interview in the G&M where he said his vision was that “in ten years we would be talking about the communications business not just PR.” While others are starting to catch on to our vision, the fact that Edelman’s time frame is 10 years off suggests he still thinks this is a very aspirational statement.

Consultants are, if anything, practical animals. We tend to reflect the prevailing attitudes, jargon and structure of our clients. That’s why agencies market their services around organizational structures of our clients. Currently the marketing industry is very siloed with advertising, GR and PR usually reporting through to different clients within an organization. Unfortunately silos don’t usually create strategies to fit business goals. Instead, they usually see success in terms of the narrow service interests of our immediate clients. Did an ad reach the right audience? How many impressions did earned media produce? Was a government regulation thwarted?

It’s been obvious to us for some time that the best way to drive business goal is to be agnostic about how a messaged is delivered. The choice of an ad, earned media or digital ought to be a function of what makes the most practical sense to drive business objectives. Objectives like how do you become the number one retailer in the world or become the first to market the latest technology breakthrough need holistic communications strategies to achieve success.

That’s why we think that to achieve our three year goal, we need to focus our marketing on the leadership team of an organization – “the c-suite”. Only it is prepared to look at over-arching business goals upon which the life or death of companies truly depend. That doesn’t mean we give up on executing plans as part of our offering or competing for RFPs where the client has already baked in the strategy. The true value of a strategy is determined by the effectiveness by which it can be executed. This will always be part of our business – our clients value excellence in execution and we are damn good at it! But to really demonstrate the value of our services towards the achievement of a business goal we must be talking to the CEO and the executive team. Now, we will have to change some habits and attitudes if we’re going to be successful, but that would make a great topic for my next blog!