Please put your hands up and back away from the table

>Professional organizations that support communicators – such as IABC, of which I’ve been a member for a good part of the past 20 years – are always saying that communicators need to earn a seat at the management table. They need to support the organization’s goals, speak management’s language and get serious about business. If they don’t, the line goes, they’ll be seen only as tacticians for the rest of their lowly careers.

Ron Shewchuk recently posted on this subject and, if you’re involved with corporate communications either inside or outside the organization, I think it’s worth your time to read his comments. They’re really insightful.

Here’s a taste:

“Well, I’m here today to tell you that I’ve been a temporary dinner guest at that strategic table more than a few times in my long and sordid career. And I’m ready to share a little secret: most of the time the guests are insane and the food is undercooked, overcooked, rotten or poisoned. Very few decisions actually ever get made. Long-term direction is often nothing more than the path of least resistance, or whatever your cranky investors are insisting you do next. And battle tactics are devised in a very deep, cushy bunker in which the primary goal is not victory, but self-preservation.

“Want to have the ear of your CEO? Fat chance. So few chief executives actually listen to anyone, let alone a lowly communicator, that you might as well just forget it.”

After going through a litany of reasons the strategic communicator is a myth, Ron ends solidly with some very practical application in the third of the three-part series. Frankly, his tips parallel some of the things I wrote in my “be subversive” series, but he forgets one important foundation: brand.

If communicators want to get to the table – and have the courage to go there – they need to be brand warriors. They need to either fly under the radar, slowly communicating the brand standards internally, or be loud and proud about the value of brand, so that everybody starts asking “what’s with that guy?” They need to hold others accountable to the brand: write about the brand and how others are using it to make every decision. And they need to help people establish guidelines and deadlines and communicate them so they can’t cop out when the going gets tough.

Yes, it’s going to make some people angry. Some people are going to fight it. In the end, however, you’ll not only be at the table, I think you be standing on top of the table, holding up the brand as a shield against all things ordinary.

Or you’ll be out the door, pounding the street for a new and better opportunity.

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One Response to Please put your hands up and back away from the table

  1. Mike Sansone says:

    >Put me down for “loud and proud.”Sometimes, the hardest thing for communicators to do – it seems – is to shoot straight to folks at the head of the table.As one who’s sat at various positions, I’d prefer straight shooting…and the heads that think otherwise, probably shouldn’t be sitting there.

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