Posts Tagged ‘board’

PRs on Top: Why New Senior Figures are Great News for the Industry

Autumn is a time for change. Recent weeks have seen a number of significant individuals take up prominent leadership roles: not only in Washington and the China Communist Party, but also in the major powerhouses of the communications world.

What is heartening is the fact that positions at the top are increasingly being occupied by those with a PR background. Recently, Everything Everywhere announced that Stuart Jackson was leaving his post as Director of Communications to take up a new role as Director of the Chief Executive Office. The move evinced the increased weighting that is being placed on public relations at senior management level. Put simply: boards are recognising that in the Now Economy, success begins and ends with the ability of a company to engage in a genuine, deep, meaningful two way dialogue with their customers.

This week Harris Diamond has been announced as the new CEO of global ad firm McCann World Group. Diamond has a distinguished track record- in PR. Previously top cheese at Weber Sandwich, Diamond is just the latest in an increasing number of professionals with a PR background being recruited by the advertising industry. Traditionally seen as our more creative cousins, there is a growing understanding that, in the modern world, innovative communications mean much more than making a sexy looking ad and buying some space to stick it on.  In order to have traction, creative content must be generated in conversation with its audience. PRs have an understanding not only of compelling stories that capture the crowd, but also the conditions that must be in place to give the narratives they generate life in the long term, serving a brand long after a particular campaign disappears from our TV screens and billboards.

Of course, the result of this is that PRs are going to have to step up to the mark. Silos must be busted; mindless drudgery expelled from the workplace. We have thus far made poor work of defining what it is we do, and we must move to rectify this. Diamond’s job title- CEO of the Constituency Management Group- is hardly likely to elucidate matters: I’ve been given sleepless nights trying to work out exactly what the poor chap’s remit entails. We must hope that his mastery of the craft of communications shines through, and that he’s not just a bean counter in a PR person’s suit.

Speaking more widely, it is up to PR folk to ensure our skill set is fully understood; we must set our terms of engagement. We are being offered the opportunity to take our place at the top table, and we must seize it before it slips through our grasp.

Why CEOs must get PRs on board

Danny Rogers, the editor of PR Week, has, in a recent Independent article, highlighted a curious phenomenon blighting the boards of the majority of FTSE 100 firms. According to a recent survey, 54% of them still do not have a communications expert at executive board level.
Considering that in the modern climate, most major decisions business leaders make will ultimately become public knowledge, thanks to the inherent transparency and traceability of digital communication, this statistic seems like madness. But in my experience CEO are bewildered by the PR process. We in the PR industry have done a poor job of defining and promoting what we do.
The term “PR” has become synonymous with “press releases” (easy enough to understand why), “buzz,” “publicity,” and “spin.” What good PR actually entails is a lot more: it underpins every conversation that is happening around a brand, every aspect of how it is perceived, and it should, therefore, sit at the centre of the brand communication process. But the talent pool is thin and many global networks are struggling to define the imperative. Instead many companies are lassoing their brands and limiting their horizons. Fear and process are embraced both overtly and on a subliminal level, because doing things the way they’ve always been done is easier than recognising the need for change and implementing it.
I’ve a  more spiritual point of view on the issue.  PR thinking comes in two types: processed and intuitive. Of course the former is necessary at the base level, but problems arise when it dominates- and defines- what you do. The best practitioners know when to make the leap from the daily grind to a moment of wild inspiration.
I’ve  always tried to place myself in the latter camp. Borkowski’s culture has remained much unchanged in 25 years, and our PR has always been led by powerful, truthful stories, drawn organically from a brand and fed to media who genuinely want them.
Consider this:  the PR industry, rather than talking about what it attempts to  do, should talk more effectively, more provocatively and to a wider audience about what it can achieve at the heart of the brand. If it is able to decode and present challenging ideas to effect internal and external behaviour, it might achieve traction at board level.
I’m bold enough to suggest all our clients consider disrupting their current processes, and draw PR to their heart. After all this is not an age for opportunism or blind luck. Clever ideas need a strategic backbone. They can’t float aimlessly in the ether, waiting for the herd to react. We think it’s important to make considered, emotional and intellectual observations about the culture of publicity. Strategic counsel is no longer a luxury for big brands and early adopters: the marmite opinions of millions of motivated commentators mean that public opinion is more visible, faster moving and more risky than ever before, and will determine everything about a brand’s success- or otherwise.
However, we understand the challenges many organisations face in the struggle to shift internal structures to fit the demands of the age. Borkowski can help. We’re not simply the go-to publicity agency. We are personable group who offer a sympathetic helping hand, leaving the much maligned ego at the door.