A seat at the table means speaking up

For strategic communicators, being brought in by C-suite and business unit leaders prior to a major operational move is what it's all about. It's about being included as a valued team member.

For strategic communicators, being brought in by C-suite and business unit leaders prior to a major operational move is what it's all about. It's about being included as a valued team member.

But many communicators – both in-house and at firms – bemoan the fact that they don't have a seat at the table at those times. Rather, they're brought in after the fact to put out the press release, coordinate the town hall, etc.

When the big stuff “hits the fan” – a huge acquisition, accounting problem, major litigation, restructuring – the CEO, board, or general counsel often brings in a specialty boutique, believing that the experience and expertise simply does not reside within the company's communications team or within the AOR, which includes the largest global agencies.

One former head of communications for several Fortune 500 companies said: “Being inside these corporations is a cage match of survival.” 

Another VP of communications at one of the nation's largest financial services companies said: “If you bring in the agency, there's two possible risks. One, they look stupid in the meeting, which reflects badly on you. Two, they show you up in the meeting, which reflects badly on you.” 

It's not surprising that many communicators just want to keep their heads down. But valued strategic communicators speak up at meetings. They have the confidence to collaborate in the truest sense. They build the best teams of in-house and external resources with the necessary complementary experience, expertise, perspective, and judgment.

As a warning, do not try this "at home” unless you work for leaders who value such qualities and surround themselves with top talent, and who embrace “best ideas” and business outcomes over politics and corporate optics.

David Tager is president of Tager & Co.

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