With Barack Obama visiting the Oval Office yesterday for the first time and President Bush slowly transferring what power he has to the incoming leader, it makes me think about our own succession planning in PR. A lot of PR executives talk about this and are even mandated to come up with a plan. Fortunately, or maybe unfortunately, there’s no public election for PR executives to lead a PR firm or a communications department. So your succession plan is your organization’s best vote on who can hit the ground running and impact growth. A long-time general manager of a PR firm told me recently that his succession plan was “definitely in the works.” A head of a PR dept at a mid-sized company told me her successor is in the hands of HR. In other words, she hadn’t really thought much about it. These two examples are of what not to do. If you are in any kind of management position, it’s time to start thinking about who can take over when you leave, whether your departure is voluntary or involuntary. A manager of mine nearly 15 years ago called it the “beer truck test” — if you got hit by a beer truck, who could handle your job from Day 1? Over the years, I’ve been a bit disturbed by her choice of trucks though we were a bunch of young journalists and we could relate to the alcohol analogy. So, if you haven’t already, start thinking about who you’re grooming to step into your shoes, and who might be re-organizing the furniture in your office one day — whether you’re office is square or oval.
– Diane Schwartz