Comms Must Have a Seat at the Table

Corporate executives frequently leave their communications teams out of the mix. Rather than involving these professionals from the onset of planning, some corporate executives are prone to looping in public relations professionals at the last minute, only telling them top line details, and leaving out anything they don’t want to see in the press.

More times than not, the communications team has to fight to even get in the door. Perhaps this is because the CEO or other executives simply think they know better or maintain the mindset that “I started the company, who better to speak on behalf of it?” More frequently, it’s because they regard the communications team as a so called “non-revenue producer.”

These are all bad ideas and are unquestionably the wrong mindset. We’ve seen time and time again examples of corporate responses that have yielded less than desirable results all because comms wasn’t involved.

Take for example, Chip Wilson, the CEO and founder of Lululemon. In the midst of a crisis, dubbed the “see-through yoga pants” crisis, he felt the need to go out and publicly state that their apparel “doesn’t work for some women’s bodies.” Adding more fuel to the fire, he went on to say that Lululemon wasn’t “a fat person brand.”

Now, let’s be real – had comms been involved in the company’s response, this would’ve never happened. Those words would have never been uttered by the CEO, much less anyone else at the company. And, likely, Lululemon wouldn’t have come under fire for “fat-shaming.”

This single example reaffirms why it’s so important to involve comms from the get-go. Rather than executives taking matters into their own hands, it is imperative that CEOs and other executives treat their communications head as part of the team – and involve them every step of the way.

As if the Lululemon example isn’t indicative enough, whether it be a new product rollout, a simple staff announcement, or as crisis breaks out, here’s three more reasons why communications should have a seat at the table.

1. They’re In Tune with Public Perception.

PR professionals deal with the public on a daily basis, and are likely the only ones in the room who aren’t drunk on the company kool-aid. As other executives in the room get excited over technical details and developments, PR professionals are trained to take a step back and consider how other key publics might perceive the issue at hand.

For example, say a tech company is rolling out a new product and it’s bound to be a hit. But, the language designed around said product is far over the heads of those in your target audience. This happens a lot, and that’s okay because comms will catch it if they’re involved. That’s what comms is for – to make sure your language resonates with the audience you’re speaking to before it goes out the door.

2. They Can Spot a Crisis Long Before Anyone Else.

As the individuals who speak on behalf of your company, whether that be to journalists or the general public, public relations professionals bear the brunt of crises.

It is because of this that public relations professionals know how to spot and navigate a crisis before it ever occurs. Perhaps this is because they’ve already dealt with a crisis at your company, or perhaps its become an instinct they’ve acquired from their education in PR or another job. Regardless, PR professionals are very good at spotting a crisis long before it occurs and steering your company in the opposite direction.

That said, for your comms team to be able to do this, it goes back to our initial conversation – executives must include them. Too often, communications either isn’t listened to or isn’t involved until after the fact. In both instances, CEOs, executives, and others come running to comms for help – all of which could have likely been avoided by just communicating.

3. PR Works Hand in Hand with Marketing.

Just because PR and marketing are two very different things, doesn’t mean they don’t work hand in hand. Truthfully, the best marketing campaigns employ a public relations component.

Each and every day, or at least for each public facing issue that involves your company, marketing and comms should interface. Nine times out of ten, there’s a component for each department to run point on and it’s best for both of the departments to work together from the onset.

In doing so, communications will be able to design earned media campaigns around product rollouts and their marketing components. On the flip side, marketing will get feedback from comms on messaging to ensure they’re talking with their audiences – not at them.

Give Your PR Head a Seat at the Table.

PR professionals could go on and on about why it’s so important to include your communications team in decision making from the very beginning. These three reasons only scratch the surface, but illustrate why your communications head should have a seat at the table.