Want Truly Strategic Communication? Seat Your Communicator at the Strategy Table!

by Frank L. Williams

“Strategic” can be defined as relating to the identification of long-term or overall aims and interests and the means of achieving them. Another definition is carefully designed or planned to serve a particular purpose or advantage. In layman’s terms, being strategic means that your actions and decisions are focused on achieving a larger goal. You don’t do things just to do them; you do them by design, for a reason.

Given these definitions, the opposite of strategic would be haphazard, unplanned, and disconnected from a clear purpose or long-term goals. That sounds like a terrible way to manage a business, and it’s a terrible way to run a communication campaign!

Several months ago, I wrote about the dangers of a communication-strategy disconnect. That article was followed by one in which I discussed connecting communication with strategy, which focuses on the process of developing communication goals that are aligned with your business plan and identifying strategies and tactics to execute a strategically aligned plan. It left out one important piece: the human element.

Far too many executives, organizational leaders, and clients view their communication partners merely as technical experts who can fulfill specific tasks. They loop in their PR people when they need a press release, a social post, a speech written, etc., but do not include them in strategic discussions. Then, they wonder why their communication activities seem disconnected from their strategic goals and vision.

If you want your communication to be truly strategic, you absolutely must give your communicator(s) a seat at your strategy table.

At its core, public relations is a strategic management function, and having a capable, ethical communication strategist as part of your leadership circle will help you make better informed, more effective business decisions. By giving your communicator a seat at the strategy table, you ensure that they have access to information they need to anticipate opportunities, pre-empt potential crises, and identify emerging issues. You empower them to provide input to help ensure that the public relations implications of business decisions are considered early in the planning process, not when it’s too late.

Since I mentioned “public relations implications,” when people hear statements like that they often think about “spin” and “how this might make us look.” Truly considering the public relations implications of a decision means analyzing and understanding how the action or decision could affect or be perceived – or misunderstood – by key publics and stakeholders. It’s not just about building an image; it’s about building relationships with key publics.

The bottom line is this: if you want your organization’s communication to be truly strategic, you must give your communicator a permanent seat at your strategy table and empower them to speak up and be part of the process.

Frank L. Williams

Frank is the founder and president of Pioneer Strategies.