Agility means action

Fast-moving communications teams are most likely to drive change across organizations, say comms leaders from Procter & Gamble and John Hancock.

Clockwise from top left: Arunima Krishna, Ph.D., Anne McNally, Steve Barrett and Damon Jones
Clockwise from top left: Arunima Krishna, Ph.D., Anne McNally, Steve Barrett and Damon Jones

Agility leads to action in communications and across entire companies. Agile organizations are able to speak effectively to key stakeholder audiences such as employees, executives and customers, said speakers on The Age of the Agile Communicator panel at PRDecoded.

Arunima Krishna, assistant professor of public relations in Boston University’s college of communications, referenced the Communications Bellwether Survey that BU conducted with PRWeek this spring during the first peak of the COVID-19 pandemic. It found that agile organizations are more likely to drive action affecting various audiences.

“When we compared outcomes, there was a stark difference,” she said. “We found that change management and change communications are significantly more important in highly agile organizations when compared to medium- or low-agility organizations. Highly agile organizations were much more likely to have change management within the comms function.”

Damon Jones, chief communications officer at Procter & Gamble, noted that the pandemic has accelerated the pace at which communications functions act and drive change across organizations.

“No one will come out of 2020 unchanged. One thing that was surprising to me is that agility is a concept we have all talked about, but surprisingly we have not put it into practice as much in our industry as we have had to in this past year,” he said. “One of my most important responsibilities at P&G is to not just craft words, but to craft actions.”

Anne McNally, VP and head of communications at John Hancock, also defined agility as communicators being able to push a company’s leadership into quick action.

“When I hear the word agility, I respond strongly to what [Jones] said about communications  having that role in the room and thinking through actions and forcing leadership teams to think more quickly and act differently, because we’re the people in the room positing the questions,” she said. “That’s the role of a good communicator: thinking through the scenario several steps ahead and thinking through the different lenses that others might not be thinking about.”

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