I had an unusual breakfast this morning, not because of the choice of food but the location, company and discussion. The breakfast meeting was organised by the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) and will be featured in a future edition of Influence magazine. So I won’t go into the detail of the discussion that took place but make a few observations on what happened.
The discussion was about risk and more specifically reputation risk. My fellow panel members came from a wide range of backgrounds with different experiences. There were risk management specialists, a lawyer and of course communicators with many working for agencies and me as the lone in-house voice. You would think there would be more differences than similarities but I don’t think that was the case.
It is inevitable that we will all be dealing with risk in some way on a daily basis. We may not label it as that or see it as that but we are dealing with it, every time we give some advice or get involved in planning it has a link to risk management. Of course, more communicators are comfortable with the concept of crisis management but it is two sides of the same coin. The key no matter where we work or who we work for is to see risk management as a communication issue but also a wider organisational priority.
We have a unique position as PR and communication specialists where we can see across the organisation. If we take the opportunity we can be more than the people writing press releases and become strategic advisors. It means never saying that isn’t my job, it means having an honesty to build trust, and it means really understanding the frontline business. If we can do these things consistently and even when we are under pressure then we are in a position to sit in the boardroom as a strategic advisor alongside the lawyers and accountants.
Communications has to be about much more than the work we do, the channels we use, and the coverage we get for our organisations. This isn’t easy and it requires focus and hard work. It needs a confidence and belief in the impact that communication can have which can convince the boardroom. When we have that position more widely across the business of PR then we will be some way to changing the perception and reputation of communicators.
After almost two hours, disagreement and consensus I came to the conclusion that beneath all the fancy words, the business specific issues and the different professions we are all grappling with the same challenges and are looking to take advantage of the same opportunities. This was definitely one of the more interesting breakfasts I have had with lots to think about.