EDITORIAL: Iwata's assessment of risk, mistakes should empower PR pros to go beyond comfort zone

Jon Iwata, along with Mike Wing, IBM VP of strategic communications, and the rest of the team, over the years have harnessed the intranet to do more than deliver information.

Jon Iwata, along with Mike Wing, IBM VP of strategic communications, and the rest of the team, over the years have harnessed the intranet to do more than deliver information.

It has become an integral part of transforming IBM's culture (see this week's analysis here). Iwata says that though mistakes have been made along the way, the system continues to evolve, having gone through several iterations over the years. Regardless of the challenges, this is a great story that should empower PR professionals to think holistically about their roles within their organizations. A void was filled within IBM by communications, one that easily could have been filled by human resources, finance, the CIO's office, or a host of other internal departments. Wing spoke to PRWeek extensively about the impact of intranet initiatives like the periodic "jams," which call on the IBM community at large to contribute thoughts and opinions about various issues or initiatives. One of the most striking of these asked employees to contribute their thoughts about the company's values. Opening up an international discussion of that scale is one thing, but the team had to methodically process the results, which took up a great amount of time. Also, from the CEO down, the company had to prove that this was not an empty exercise, but that employees were truly being heard. The underlying message for all communicators, both in-house and agencies, is that opportunities exist within organizations to have a direct impact on the way a company, as Iwata puts it, "gets work done." His point that many in PR focus to a myopic extent on the external manifestations of business success is salient. Simplistically, it is a mistake to underestimate the importance of employee communications. But the more complex problem is in PR teams underestimating themselves. Iwata easily talks about mistakes that were made and the natural fear that goes along with moving out of your occupational comfort zone. It should be reassuring to hear from someone like Iwata that the tough process, missteps, and hard work are as vital to him as the success that IBM has had. NY PR pros' optimism slowly returning The New York PR community is manifestly busy right now, busier than it has seemed in recent memory. The regional roundtable that is featured in this issue reflected some of the optimism of the market (and it also reflected how busy people are individually, with multiple participants canceling at the last minute. Those interested in participating take note: We always have a waiting list in each market), even though few are taking it for granted. The cautious good feeling was, for the first time in a while, not really focused on the immediate economic climate, but rather on the certainty of uncertainty that grips the nation, as a result of continued international conflict and the serious problems that America faces in its global reputation. It is hoped that the economic recovery will continue to feed the coffers of the PR industry, and that budgets and staff numbers will continue to increase. But the feeling that events can change instantaneously is unlikely to lift, even as the day planners fill up.

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