Stop throwing PR budgets down the drain!
As early as 1853 Johan Petter Johansson invented a brilliant tool called the monkey wrench. 160 years later it is still being used to tighten billions of nuts and bolts each day. Some, however, use the monkey wrench to hammer in a nail. Not the right idea, but actually similar to companies focusing their PR on maximizing the volume of press cuttings instead of on supporting their business goals.
Communication, if used properly, is one of the most powerful competitive weapons companies have at their disposal. It is the perfect tool to rationalize a business, attract necessary talent or gain market share.
Today, as everyday dialogue is moving from the kitchen table and onto the net providing basically everyone with the power of mass communication, information and communication management is becoming even more crucial. So why is it that companies today still run their communication departments as a sideline of the business operation with limited or no insights into the real strategic business discussions?
How is it that communications department success is so often judged against goals such as share of voice, message penetration, number of likes etc…? Don´t get me wrong, those are all very important but there is no intrinsic value achieved by meeting the communication goals alone, they are merely the means to an end.
Measuring whether communications contributed to increased sales, greater market share, increased talent recruitment or customer loyalty are parameters far more interesting to keep track of. It is only when you can draw parallels between these goals and communication efforts that we might close in on “profitable communications”.
My experience as a communication professional has contributed to a few insights over the years. Firstly, management teams often are surprisingly unsynchronised in terms of business goals and tend to formulate these in such a vague manner that they become difficult to implement and even harder to measure.
Secondly, the communication teams often lack or have very limited insight into the true objectives of the business which, in effect, means that communication departments often focus and measure trivialities. Could you really credibly argue that the size of a clipping report, increased share-of-voice or number of likes on the company Facebook page actually increase the bottom line?
We need to consider a change in how communication is being incorporated into the business. That change will require effort from the management teams and from communication professionals. Management teams need to allow for organizations without silos; organizations larger and more powerful than the sum of their individual parts; organizations where everyone is clear on the overall goals and how they should contribute. Such organizations will need leaders who can be explicit in terms of objectives and vision and understand how to take advantage of the support functions at their disposal.
On the other hand, we, as external and internal PR practitioners, need to become a lot more inquisitive and demanding when getting our heads around what the business is actually aiming at. Our job is to support the success of our companies but in order to do that we need a very clear view of exactly what this success entails. It´s time for us to start looking at ourselves as contributors to the overall performance of the bottom line of a business and stop popping champagne bottles at a spread in FT.
Catarina Wigen, AxiCom Sweden
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