I ended my last post by saying that if we wanted to elevate the value of communications to our clients we would have to break down some old habits and attitudes. Successful consultants are very client focused. We do not want to do anything that is disruptive to a relationship. But too often we let loyalty to existing relationships get in the way of networking up our clients’ chain of command. We tend to become bureaucratized with the head of external relations, or brand manager, or corporate PR. Too many of us have become comfortable here – either because of perceived fears of undermining our direct client, or lack of confidence that our skills are meaningful to our clients’ superiors.
We have to get over these attitudes.
I concede that the path up the value chain is more direct in some of our businesses than others. Our GR colleagues have a direct path. In a McKinsey global survey of senior managers in June 2010, close to 50 per cent of all respondents said that managing external relations with government was a top three priority of CEOs. This was even more pronounced in the heavily regulated industries of energy, financial services and healthcare. Here, government regulators were expected to have the greatest impact on a company’s economic value over the next three to five years. Our GR consultants’ networks and insights should be in heavy demand at senior levels of our clients. To have a meaningful impact on redefining the value of communications we should not miss any opportunity to share our network and insights directly with the C-suite.
Moving up the value chain to the CEO is a little more challenging for the PR business. The McKinsey study also said that media was cited by less than 10 per cent of senior management as a stakeholder of great importance over a company’s economic value. Other stakeholders such as customers, government, employees and investors took precedence. So the value proposition of PR has always to been to position it as a conduit to influence other stakeholders.
For years this value proposition relegated PR as a tactic. But with the rise of media fragmentation and social media, PR has gained new respect. Budgets are growing and so has C-suite interest. Today PR is firmly on the minds of the company’s most senior marketer. Chief marketing officers and heads of marketing are very often from the world of advertising, so they need additional PR insight but don’t often have the network or reflex to reach out to stakeholders or social media. That’s why they rely on the head of corporate PR. Inserting oneself in situations where we have direct contact with the CMO or head of marketing will be important if we are to redefine the value of communications to our clients.
How we do that will make for the next great post!

Authored by: Mike Coates