Thinking strategically will enhance the value you generate for your organization and will create more forward momentum for your own career. Although PR professionals have to deal with endless low-level communication activity, it is also vital to commit to thinking and planning at higher levels. This adds the most value to organizational outcomes. As Sir Richard Branson said, “Communication is the most important skill any leader can possess,” and so your role is to take the initiative to strengthen your organization’s communication, starting right from the top.
Manage communication strategically
Strategic communication should help your organization to achieve its mission, to strengthen its overall performance. Strategic communication professionals focus on the management of communication. They understand and use the full range of tactical tools and channels, but in addition they use research and planning, they understand the fundamental nature of the organization’s operations, they can look ahead at emerging trends in the internal and external environment and they initiate communication actions to address those trends. They look at the longer-term point of view and seek to build on the organization’s strengths rather than merely engage in problem-solving, reactive mode.
One of the main things you need to do is review your organization’s vision, mission and goals to identify the top priorities. Then relate every communication project or program to one or more of these organizational goals. This is important. You should document in every PR plan and subsequent report exactly which organizational goal/s it supports. Then if anyone ever queries the purpose of any PR activity you can point to the goal it relates to. Doing this enables you to focus tightly on supporting your organization’s top priorities.
Research over the years has supported a long-held view that the better an organization communicates, the better it performs.
For instance, the communication ROI survey conducted in 2008 by international consulting firm, now named Willis Towers Watson, echoed the results from its previous similar surveys when it found organizations with the most effective communication programs enjoyed a 47% higher total return to shareholders compared with organizations that communicated least effectively.
Good communication at the center of high-performing companies
The study, which surveyed employees from 264 companies employing 6.2 million people around the world, identified six practices of high-performing companies:
- Focusing managers and other employees on customer needs.
- Engaging employees in running the business.
- Helping managers communicate effectively.
- Leveraging the talents of internal communicators to manage change effectively.
- Measuring the impact of employee communication.
- Branding the employee experience.
The Watson Wyatt survey supported the general findings of a seminal US study conducted by Professor James Grunig that found communication was a highly valued function in the typical organization – but only if the head of PR managed strategically. The study found that the single greatest determinant of communication excellence was having the expertise required of a strategic manager.
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