I am convinced that if aliens invaded the earth, they would eat the communicators first. This belief has been shaped by years of watching PR and Marketing functions get cut when organizations are looking to save money. I watched the slash and re-staff cycle throughout my career and as an independent have seen the same logic applied when companies slash budgets or eliminate outsourced partners entirely.
So if the zombies show up, forgive me if I leap over your head to scramble to safety.
Often, when companies are faced with a need to trim their expenses, they view PR and Marketing as the fat of the company. In the heat of the battle, all of the hard work done by these communication pros is reduced to press releases and pretty brochures. Ugh. I could successfully argue that this is a big mistake. I could even provide examples of how cutting these departments actually hurt the bottom line, but today I want to focus on a different perspective. We get treated like the fat that can be trimmed away because we hide our true value under muumuus. It’s time we wear form fitting clothes that show organizations that we’re not fat, but muscle.
Communication pros often do a rotten job of communicating our true value. We serve others beautifully crafting messages, positioning brands and rising to the challenge in the face of crisis. Yet, we are quiet about what we do and how it ties into the priorities of the C-suite.
At the heart of all PR and Marketing tactics is strategy. While others may focus on tactics and output, we know that those things are secondary to a solid strategic plan. To develop this strategy, we have to know the business, understand the big picture vision, know the market, be ahead of industry shifts and know the competition. We do all this but we don’t articulate it and worse we fail to fight for our seat at the executive table where our voices can be heard.
As a result, executives see us as those with creative intelligence but may miss or devalue our broader insight and it’s our fault.
It pains me to admit it but I have made this mistake. A client wants to cut their budget (code for we don’t get why we’re paying you) or is questioning what PR/Marketing is really doing for them. All of your metrics and charts and case studies dissolve into nothingness when you have failed to make it clear not only what you do but how you do it and how that integrates into what the company cares about. Ouch.
As communicators we must lean in and take our seat at the strategy table. Have the business discussions and make sure that you are aligning what you do with what matters to the company (Hint: It’s money – making it, saving it- but it is always money). More importantly learn to talk about it in a way that matters to those who are listening.
Yes, there will always be clients/employers who simply do not get what we do but we can do our part to make sure that we do not get eaten first.
I want to hear from you, how do you communicate your value to clients/employers? What can we do better?
Karen Swim says
Janet, I agree and we can help organizations to do that in how we talk about and present what we do. You are so smart to point out the power of that small shift in thinking. You treat an investment far differently than an expense. I cut out expenses but I stick with investments. Thanks for adding to this discussion!
Janet Falk says
An alternative view is to consider Communications as an Investment, not an Expense, similar to Research & Development.
Karen Swim says
Ha! So glad you enjoyed my sense of humor. Jill, your point about Google is so important and one that we should take to heart and use to help orgs understand the value of what we do. You are so right when done well, PR and marketing strategies grow businesses! We should make that into a bumper sticker!
Jill Van Nostran says
I laughed at your mention of zombies and at the pic. So funny! But sadly, so true. PR is often the first to go during budget cuts. But, we see more evidence – as Google has just admitted – that PR is a key component in driving qualified traffic and leads to businesses. PR and marketing strategies, done well, grow businesses, people!