Thursday, July 30, 2009


There’s a lot we can learn from a recent study comparing the views of CEOs, strategic planners (SP) and senior public relations (PR) executives regarding corporate strategy. One of the basic findings, in my humble opinion, is that PR pros have a thing or two to learn about self confidence and strategy. For example:

What makes an initiative strategic?
CEO: It changes the market, competitive position or business model.
PR: It involves C-level sponsorship (NOTE: already we are beginning to address non-fundamental issues!)

Which initiative would usually be considered strategic in your organization?
All: New market entry (at least we have concurrence in this area!)

Why makes some strategic plans successful and others, not?
CEO: Anticipation of obstacles
SP: Correct strategy
PR : Understanding of stakeholders

How do you determine that a strategy was incorrect?
CEO: Market potential overestimated, incorrect economic modeling and/or unanticipated competitive responses
PR: Unforeseen barriers to uptake/switch

Why do strategic initiatives fail?
CEOS: Unforeseeable external circumstances and lack of understanding
SP: Incorrect strategy
PR: A lack of understanding, incorrect strategies and lack of accountability

What accounts for a lack of understanding?
All: Poor communications among stakeholders, misunderstanding about deadlines and poor understanding of costs.

Thus, all agree that communications is critical to success.

When communicators are asked to define their role in the strategic planning process, they cite acting as “a resource” once implementation begins and as “a sounding board” prior to rollouts, rather than viewing themselves as an integral part of the process from the beginning, at the same table with the CEO. In fact, while 51% of CEOs say that communicators should play an active role in the strategic planning process, only 39% of public relations professionals do, in fact, view themselves as playing an active role.

So what must PR people to do to make sure we are part of the strategic planning group?

• Start viewing ourselves as strategic contributors, rather than just as tactical practitioners. Make a case for what PR can do in the strategic planning process (e. g., inter- and intra- communications, setting up a communications structure for the strategic planning taskforce to assure that we are involved, engaged and accountable — right from the beginning — to help the plan succeed.

• Step forward and ask to be on the committee if not invited.

• Part of the planning process today is about engaging people, the hallmark of PR, so the internet should serve as a critical resource.

• Set up structures to invite strategic comment throughout the year.

• As we are experts in dialogue, set up a steady flow of feedback systems that clients will value.

Based on this study — “The Powerful Convergence of Strategy, Leadership and Communications: Getting It Right” — which was presented by Financial Dynamics at an Arthur Page Society/Council of PR Firms event last week, PR still needs to do a better job of educating corporate boards about why we should be vital participants in the strategic planning process from the get-go. I believe there is room to do that … largely because, as this survey shows, they are already seeking our help.

Technorati Tags: Makovsky + Company, strategic planners, corporate strategy, C-level, business, public relations


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