By Deb Sharratt,
Communication is ever changing and has changed so much since I started my career.
There are now so many more people to communicate with and importantly, those people can also make a lot of noise, very easily. No matter how few of them there actually are.
So as Andrew Mitchell, Director of Strategic Communications and Policy, at Heathrow Airport said at a CIPR North East event last week for Strategic Communicators, “the best approach for any organisation is to be open and show that we are here to listen… and stay on the front foot by communicating with people”.
I don’t think any of us would disagree with that. But how do we get our directors and ultimate decision makers in our organisations, to take this on board.
Last week we held our first Strategic Communications Forum in the North East. A new space where senior communications professionals can meet, network, learn from their peers, and debate issues pertinent to the communications sector.
Attended by PR professionals with the responsibility for communications in their organisation, it was facilitated by CIPR North East. It was open to CIPR and non-CIPR members from across North East England.
The main speaker at the first event was Andrew Mitchell from Heathrow Airport, and the following people were panel members
- Caroline Darnbrook, Director of Products and Marketing at Darlington Building Society,
- Chris Taylor, Managing Director of PR & Marketing agency DTW, and
- Laura Foster, Business Scale-up Partner at RTC North East.
Putting PR at the heart of your business
The subject of the first event was putting PR at the heart of your business. So what tips can we share from our 30+ strategic communicators? From both the speaker and panel members and indeed the enormous talent that was in the room.
Improving your communications has got to be based on building pride and trust. But how do we get a seat at the boardroom table and make organisations realise the power of communication.
1: ROI is key. Demonstrate its worth and value to the business. Strive to get Communications as a key KPI for the business.
2: Explain the importance of reputation. Measure your reputation not just with the media but with all key audiences including politicians, regulators, employees and the local community.
3: Ensure that communications support all of the key business priorities.
4: Integrate the communications team into the organisation. Too often they are seen as being separate to, and therefore not integral to the business, but communications need to be seen and valued throughout the business.
5: Get active and involved throughout the organisation. Be ahead of the game and build credibility by offering solutions.
6: Encourage great working partnerships.
7: Speak about actions not just words and choose those words carefully.
So, what is it that is holding PR back?
- Wherever possible, need to show more than a correlation between PR and outcomes (e.g. profits/behaviour change) – a causative link is much stronger.
- We need to advocate for what PR can help an organisation achieve. Show it’s not just publicity and media relations.
- PR has to become more outcome and not output focused – that is the compelling story.
- We need to be more specific about services that we offer and sectors that we are strong in.
- We need to show that communication teams are the eyes, ears, conscious and increasingly the brain in terms of shaping thinking of an organisation and should be a key part of the brain of the business.
- We need to acknowledge that you can’t make everyone agree with you but can make sure you are proactive and make the effort to speak to everyone even when you know you can’t change their minds, but you can get them to understand.
- We need to believe in ourselves and need to win confidence.
- Be better at anticipating problems and getting stuck in to help when they arise and provide solutions before, we are asked.
- Stop being reticent to ask for what a communications department needs – no other area of an organisation is so constrained but to do that we need better at measurement and evaluation – for example adopt AMEC model of planning and measurement.
- Need more communication specialists to become CEOs.
- Ultimately PR needs to take control of its own destiny by combining its well-developed skills of artistry and relationship building with data.
Further events for strategic communicators from CIPR North East via the North East Strategic Communications Forum are planned throughout the year. To get involved tweet or DM @CIPR_NorthEast or email CIPR North East Vice Chair Deb Sharratt.
CIPR North East also has a various training, networking and social events across the year for all PR practitioners. Follow @CIPR_NorthEast on Twitter or LinkedIn to keep up to date.