Speakers at PRWeek's Next conference this week implored the PR pros in the audience to be the watchdogs of their organizations. Chuck Connor, president and CEO of the American Lung Association and a 25-year veteran of public affairs for the US Navy, suggested that communicators position themselves to “see the next scandal in your organization” and be there to prevent it.
Later in the day, Louis Thompson Jr., former head of the National Investor Relations Institute (NIRI), reminded everyone that the PR and IR teams are not only responsible and covered under Reg-FD, but they also have the opportunity to prevent their companies' executives from blurting out material information, putting their own and the organizations' reputations on the line.
These are all important jobs that communicators should be glad to count among their duties, because it elevates the profession.
Of course, getting the C-suite's attention isn't always easy. Though many of the speakers offered tips on this, Kmart CMO Mark Snyder might have said it best, “be brave.” He also suggested, though, becoming a well-rounded comms professional steeped in other disciplines like marketing and advertising, and to offer counsel that the C-suite can actually use. Century 21 CEO Tom Kunz urged the audience to simply “talk” to their CEOs, and to bring ideas that demonstrate ROI (see editorial). And perhaps something that sums this all up from Connor: “Be the most valuable player to the CEO” – they don't last long and are looking to make an impression.
Though you might not always have the most popular thing to say, if you prevent a major crisis, or demonstrate exactly how the heck social media is going to improve sales, your CEO will demand you're at every strategic meeting.