Credibility of communicators (and transformation)

with 3 Comments

TCR — Here’s a brave soul. Through a network of former Towers Perrin employees on LinkedIn I have just been forwarded a note from Robert Cornet on his blog. I don’t know him. But I admire his willingness to go into dangerous waters.

In his blog on 10 March (which I can’t get a clean link to) he publishes research findings that say that very few people think that PR professionals “know anything useful.”

So, let me be clear, I do not want to disparage PR people! I am interested in an even larger question: ‘Do communication professionals know anything useful for the business?’

The answer, I fear might not be far different from the poll that Robert has published.

And why is that?

I am not sure I am feeling brave enough to offer an answer.

What I can say though is that businesses at the moment are focused operationally. That’s why we see so many “One” programmes, and initiatives that promote keeping people, but reducing costs. And operational communications is not always a strong suit of communicators. We are seeing a lot of interest in ‘transformational’ communications. And not a lot of people who can do it. Not McKinsey, Bain or BCG. Not the big ‘communication’ firms.

Similarly, there’s a shocking piece in HR Magazine today saying:

Most HR Directors are not involved in making HR outsourcing decisions

That’s another ‘operational’ decision that isn’t happening where it should. Why is that? Do functions know as much about operations as they should?


P.S. Two events coming up: 23 March a Change course (info in blog below) and March 26th a Able Round Table event. Please ask and come!

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3 Responses

  1. Robert Cornet

    Thanks for the kind words on my blog and poll. You should be able to get to both at
    Take care,
    Bob Cornet

  2. David Cameron

    I just attended an IABC writing workshop where, once again, more than one communication professional lamented on their inability to convince management of recommended changes to improve messaging effectiveness. The gist of the comments were familiar. “They think we’re dumb. They don’t take us seriously.”

    One professional even expressed relief that she wasn’t the only one facing that problem.

    I thought the facilitator’s response was dead on. “You shouldn’t feel relief,” she replied. “You should feel compelled to change those perceptions.”

    I couldn’t agree more.

    I’m disgusted by professionals who complain that they aren’t taken seriously.

    If they want to be taken seriously, then they need to step up and practice what they preach. They are supposed to be the experts in selling ideas and messages and should be applying those skills in their own work as communication counsellors.

    I feel it almost silly to justify the value brought to the table by communication professionals.

    These are individuals who bring specialized knowledge in managing relationships with stakeholders. And we all know relationships are key to business success.

    These are individuals who know not only how to get messages out to the marketplace, but also — more importantly — in to the minds and hearts of stakeholders.

    When you need to get employees on the same page on the business strategy and the supporting priorties, communicators bring this expertise to the table.

    When your organization is facing a crisis, it’s the communications experts who can help manage and avert disaster, minimize the damage or turn it into an opportunity.

    When you need to launch a new brand or product, it’s the communication experts who can work with Marketing, R&D, Sales and others to develop the right messages and supporting elements. They can help get the messages OUT where they need to be seen and IN to the minds and hearts of the audiences.

    Generally, communicators bring a skill set that uniquely enables them to affect and support changes in behaviors and attitudes.

    Beyond this, communicators bring expertise and insights that can help solve problems across the business. A lot of problems have communication issues at their root. Bringing in a communication expert to sit on a team can add immense value. In such a case, they’re not there to help the team disseminate information about the team’s work… but to help analyze the problem at hand and recommend solutions.

    I have worked under individuals who did not respect the expertise I brought to the table. I surprised most of them with my contributions to the business’ overall results. There’s always one or two who aren’t open to counsel. They think they know best.

    I can appreciate that we may have a perception issue on the value brought by PR people. In that case, the profession has some ongoing work to do… but I would dare say that if you approached the CEOs of some of the world’s most successful organizations, they would without question confirm the immense value delivered by communication professionals.

  3. David Ferrabee

    David! Thanks for stopping by and sharing. I need to be more explicit in my posts I think. I essentially agree with everything you have said. And you’ve said it better than me.
    We used to say when I played competeitive sports “when in doubt, always blame the equipment.” It feel like to many of us are doing the business equivalent.
    With a name like yours why am I not surprised you’re from NS!

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