Why do many CCOs I meet lately express frustration that the people at their companies are viewed as tacticians, not strategists?
Take the case of two people I know: Sid Lipschitz and Zelda Schpondulix, executives at the Acme Explosives Corporation. (Okay, the characters are composites and the company name requires credit to Warner Bros., but the situation is real.)
Sid is VP of communications and he reports to Zelda, the company's SVP/chief communications officer.
Sid joined Acme 15 years ago, after three years writing for a leading trade publication - a job he secured right out of school. Once with Acme, Sid grew into a terrific media relations professional.
His boss, Zelda, joined Acme four years ago when the company decided to raise the bar for corporate communications. Zelda had spent the prior 10 years at a Fortune 100 company and has succeeded at Acme, where she is considered a key part of management.
After four years, Zelda has realized she is the only person in communications who is a valued counselor.
Her people are viewed as tacticians. They haven't seemed to demonstrate the competency and skills required to earn that elusive "seat at the table."
What should Zelda do?
The short answer: Look in the mirror.
Sid has been an excellent performer. But there's a big difference between being a good media guy and a senior adviser. Does he have true potential? If not, Zelda needs to figure out if she can live with his staying in his box and working around him. If Zelda thinks Sid has real potential, then she should get to work:
Review him ASAP and have an honest discussion. Incorporate feedback from company executives that reflects their admiration of Sid's work and their desire to see him step up. That criticism can actually be motivating, and it may be the first time he's heard it.
Coach him. Just because he can book media, doesn't mean he knows how to read an annual report.
Institute accountability. Measure Sid's progress. Solicit formal feedback from his "clients." This accountability will inform him on how he's doing versus management expectations, and it will make clear to Zelda if Sid has risen to the occasion or if she must make a change.
One final thought: Zelda needs to consider if her organizational structure develops and rewards tacticians over strategists. It very well might.
Bob Feldman is CEO of Feldman & Partners, a communications management consulting firm. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Feldman will be a regular PRWeek contributor and his columns will focus on the management of the corporate communications function.