Some of the most frequent questions I hear from my PR colleagues
are: How do I get to the table? How do I have real influence? What does
it take to get the boss to listen and act on what I say? The easy
response is, 'You have to be strategic.' But more PR execs need to
understand what being strategic means. It actually begins with
If you walk into a room to talk to an executive about an important
situation and the first thing you ask about is what should be in the
news release, you're obviously not thinking. (The executive can probably
write a better press release anyway, and it isn't strategic.)
If you walk into a room having asked for 15 minutes to discuss something
with a client, leave after 45 minutes, and later send a memo describing
what was covered in the meeting without sharing something the executive
does not already know, this is not thinking, and it certainly isn't
If you walk into a meeting with executives and spend time defending how
over-worked and underpaid reporters are, or excuse their lack of
knowledge, this is not thinking, and it isn't strategic.
If all you have to speak about with senior clients is the news media,
reporters, or the PR 'stuff' you're generating, this is not thinking,
and it certainly isn't strategic.
If the PR practitioner is truly interested in being on the strategy
team, there are four crucial tests any communication advice given
executives must pass. Does your suggestion, recommendation, or idea:
- Support the boss' objectives and goals?
- Support the organization's goals and mission as a whole?
- Still seem really necessary after answering numbers 1 and 2 with a
- Make successful some part, mission, or goal of the organization that
would fail to succeed otherwise?
If you want to get to the table:
- Stand for something.
- Be civil (avoid whining).
- Advocate, study, question, think, and challenge all your own
- Be ready to provide instant, useful, on-the-spot advice and counsel
from your client's or executive's perspective.
The answer to all questions about being at the table is learn to talk in
management's language, show them something they don't already know, and
provide insight and doable options they can select. Most of all,
- James Lukaszewski has just published a three-volume crisis management
strategy series in collaboration with the PRSA