It’s not a radical concept: PR pros need leadership facetime so they can be accurate and effective mouthpieces for your brand.
Do you remember the game of telephone from your elementary school years? You and your classmates would line up, and the first one in line would whisper something to the next person. The message would then pass, one-by-one, down the line until the last person would say aloud what message they received.
It was almost always wrong, much to the joy of the whole class. I remember getting some good laughs out of the game. In the business world, though, when company messages run amok, it’s never that funny — quite the opposite.
One of the keys to a well-run business is that everyone thoroughly understands the Who, What, Why, and How of the team:
- Who we are
- What we do
- Why we do it
- How we do it
And since public relations personnel bridge the divide between an entity and the general public, it is paramount that they are in complete command of the above items — and more.
The best way to ensure this?
Make sure your PR team has regular access to leadership
At multiple points in the past, I have said something like this to my higher-ups:
“You didn’t hire me to run this company — and I don’t want to — but I have to be in the loop on as much as humanly possible so I can craft and control our message on behalf of those running the company.”
Especially with younger businesses, everyday decisions are rarely mere “everyday decisions.” The marching orders that come out of meetings are usually felt immediately and acutely by the entire team, as well as customers.
For that reason, I’ve long lobbied for a PR presence in as many of those meetings as possible. Again, not to sway the decisions, but to know what decisions are being made and why. This gives PR personnel the foresight they need to appropriately maneuver talking points and prepare a course of communications activities.
No PR pro ever wants to hear a third-hand version of a decision of consequence (is that version the right version?), or learn of a decision at the same time others hear of it. Why? Because the PR team is often the group the other folks turn to for clarification. If a PR rep has only a shaky understanding of a new move, or if they’re trying to digest it when others are, those are recipes for disaster.
Access and lead time help your PR pros win for you
What I just described focuses on the danger of keeping your PR team in the dark. Now let’s talk about the benefits of keeping them in the know.
Sure, access and lead time can help your PR squad anticipate and navigate landmines as well as future inbound questions. But access and lead time can also give them the chance to package the message for a massive communications win.
With a heads-up, good PR pros can strike a proactive stance with your message instead of scrambling on their heels. They can be the ones reaching out to appropriate media (instead of media reaching out to them); they can find existing narratives to plug your news into; they can source statistics and bolster the argument that your move is a good move that will yield benefits.
Access and lead time empowers your PR person(s) and gives them the tools to win on your behalf.
Two simple ways to incorporate your PR pros
- Give them a seat in the meetings: This is simple. Invite your PR lead into meetings that inform company direction. Is there a Monday morning leadership meeting? A mid-week C-Level update? Invite them. They don’t have to do anything but listen and take notes. They don’t even have to be at the “big” table. I’ve been totally fine sitting outside the leadership circle — it offers a more objective perspective of deliberations.
- Carve out regular time for a one-on-one: Company leadership is nonstop busy with meetings and calls. It would be wise to include the communicators in that schedule, though. Just 30 minutes a week would be enough to conduct a candid conversation with the carrier of your message.
For your communications team to effectively do their job, leadership must regularly communicate with them.
Don’t have them at the middle or end of the telephone game.
It won’t yield a funny result.
David Martin is the founder of Heed Public Relations. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.