One of our PR Insiders columnists, Gordon G. Andrew of Highlander Consulting, wrote a heartfelt article for PR News recently about the struggles of PR to secure a place at the table with senior management. It’s a subject we deal with frequently in PR News and in our conferences, webinars and guidebooks.
The subject often stirs up conflicting opinions. For instance, in a recent PR News article, Larry Parnell, associate professor of strategic PR at George Washington University, suggested that “CSR is the best route for PR pros to get the proverbial seat at the table.” Others, such as PepsiCo’s Bonin Bough, say that taking the lead in digital strategy is essential to proving the business case for a robust PR team.
Another way is to become a star-maker within your organization—to be the person who, Svengali-like, molds a top executive into an approachable, visible presence on multiple platforms. Much is made now of giving a human face to organizations (this is not a reference to Mitt Romney’s comment that “corporations are people”), and some chief executives excel at this (Tony Hsieh of Zappos and Richard Branson of Virgin spring to mind).
PR practitioners can apply all their media training skills and social media savvy to helping their organization’s top exec get out from behind a desk and out of the boardroom and engage with their audience and customers. It’s simple human nature—if you feel you know a chief exec as a person, assuming that person is not completely obnoxious, you feel more connected to the brand.
The New Yorker just ran a Talk of the Town piece about Richard Branson, and I involuntarily made a mental note to fly Virgin America. Branson comes off as somewhat out of touch when it comes to the day-to-day lives of the non-kazillionaires out there, but he still sounds like a pretty decent, interesting guy.
Now, you may not have a natural showman to work with at your organization, but that’s where your skills come in. Develop his or her human touch, and grab yourself a nice, comfy seat.