I was reading an interesting ‘open letter’ from communication professional Paul Masterman to local authority chief executives. The article outlined seven tips for communicating in 2016 but it was one particular point that I found particularly interesting.
Paul’s point three is “Your Head of Communications should be in the room when you are making policy”. This is a debate that has raged for many years about the appropriate level for a head of communication. Does it sit in the boardroom when decisions are being made? And if it does then can its voice be heard? He argues that communication needs a voice when policy is being made to provide essential advice.
Over the years I have worked in roles where communication was seen as something that just delivers messages through to being a key part of a senior team. In some cases I have been in the same organisation under two different leaders and had an experience at either ends of the spectrum. If I have learned anything from this it is that an organisation that won’t put communication within the boardroom is not one that I would want to work for.
It shows an incredible short-sightedness and lack of understanding about the role of the professional communicators and what they can bring. I have been able to bring a different perspective and viewpoint that has amended or even changed a policy or operational decision. An organisation that is ready to listen and take action shows a level of maturity and is somewhere I would be happy to work. Leaders should be brave enough to take advice from a range of experts.
Communication professionals absolutely must demonstrate that they can operate at a strategic level. This means having the ability to understand the nature of the business, be able to see across the political and stakeholder issues, and move quickly between the tactical and the strategic. Don’t get me wrong this isn’t easy, particularly at a time when we are all under pressure to deliver more with smaller teams and less money. But if communication is going to have its rightful place among the bosses then we have to find a way to achieve it.
If you don’t have that place within the boardroom then perhaps you should start to make the case tomorrow. Demonstrate the knowledge, skills and experience you have and how vital they are to the business, but also build trust in you so the door is opened.