For many years we have defended our need to be heard in the boardroom, either by having a seat on the executive board or by having the possibility of reporting directly to the CEO, so that we can ensure that they take into account how their decisions will affect our corporate reputation and our stakeholder relations. We’ve travelled a long road to reach the C-Suite… Once again, we impatiently ask: Are we there yet?The answer is quite simply… no.
Recent studies show that we still have to tackle some problems before reaching our desired boardroom status:
• Many senior managers think that communication adds little to corporate performance and lacks credibility (Cornelissen, 2009). We must think and act as business executives, not merely as communicators, and provide business strategy.
• Andrew (2012) says that “many senior corporate managers would prefer not to make their decisions with Jiminy Cricket in the same room”. However, one could argue (Oliver, 2007) that “even though the Public Relations manager is unlikely to be the CEO’s favourite colleague, a competent CEO will trust both positive and negative counsel so that advice is both respected and appropriately rewarded”.
• According to Moloney (2006), another added problem is that some of Public Relations’ areas of expertise, such as corporate planning and business strategy are already carried out by other departments. “If PR seeks to move into these functional areas, it will invariably have to fight professional ‘turf wars’”. However, the rise of corporate social responsibility and social media mean that there are now many voices to listen and respond to, and Public Relations would be the most adequate discipline to communicate through them.
We need to acquire business and finance knowledge and to establish enforceable standards of practice, so that we’re not perceived merely as spin doctors. We can become more credible by focusing on outcomes, basing our decisions on solid research, determining and setting organizational objectives, articulating the rationale for particular courses of action and evaluating and reporting significant results to senior management.
If PR professionals embrace education, standards of practice and, on a more practical level, the use of new social media technologies, content creation and curation, we can continue to gain access to the boardroom. With this will come the recognition of Public Relations as a necessary, respected and valuable management function.
We still have our work cut out for us. But one day, hopefully in the near future, we’ll get there.