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PR in the Boardroom: Winning Over The C-Suite

John Boitnott

Jan 2, 2020

Every department is trying to become more data driven, using insights derived from hard numbers to increase efficiency and effectiveness. What sets PR and comms apart? You've already got the media monitoring and reporting tools to make this happen. So how do you use these tools to elevate your role as a strategic business driver? Here we take a look at the mindset you'll need to adopt to get the c-suite to pay attention. You'll also want to read the recent tip sheet we published with Ragan Communications on how competitive benchmarking works, with 8 essential analytic strategies that will get PR invited into the boardroom.

Most comms and PR leaders only interact with top execs when there is a crisis. When a social media debacle erupts on Twitter, or if there’s a failure of a product or service, that’s when you’re called up to the boardroom. In fact, much of the work that comms does—such as media relations, influencer campaigns, and the reports surrounding them—doesn’t often get much visibility with senior company leadership. 

Sure, executives might interact with or appreciate PR when it pays off in the form of a big headline or company mention. However, comms is not usually thought of as a force that shapes the company on a higher strategic level.

Instead, PR/Comms departments should be given a full seat at the table in the C-suite. The trick is to get your C-level officers to see more clearly how vital a role Comms plays. 

How do you accomplish this shift in mindset? The answer is in making your department as indispensable as possible to other departments and the company as a whole. Comms and PR leaders can do this through the strategic use of data, changing the conversation around that data with execs, and others.

Share Your Data—and Insights—with Other Departments

PR pros use media intelligence tools all the time to keep track of their brand. Media monitoring uncovers data about the company, competitors, and industry that can be turned into key insights that inform company decisions. No one is more suited and ready to understand the market than PR pros. They’re not only aware of what’s going on, but how media, experts and customers perceive the company and what they want from it.

Often, PR and comms departments fall into the trap of reporting the same numbers and information to the same people, without any real innovation. Instead of using data to uncover opportunity and insight, they just count up how many times the brand is mentioned. However, with tools that combine monitoring and analytics—and analysts who can synthesize this information into patterns and trends—they could be offering competitive intel as well as insight into emerging market trends before anyone else does.

According to Dino Delic, Director of Solutions and Integration for Meltwater, focus on making your comms team a valuable resource to as many departments as possible. This, in turn, helps you demonstrate that value in concrete ways to executives in the C-suite.

“By making use of insights derived from data, packaged differently for other departments, PR makes itself a valuable resource within the company. By arming yourself with information about what other companies are doing in terms of their marketing and their positioning, you can arm sales with what customers and clients are doing or with what competitors are doing.”

Connect with Executives to Align Your Goals with Theirs

In addition to using media intelligence data to inform other departments, comms should also look for ways to cultivate a relationship with C-suite executives to better understand their decision-making needs and zero in on the types of data they appreciate most. For example, execs may be thinking far down the road, seeking information to help them make long-term strategic decisions. Maybe they need to know why a certain message worked when another one didn’t. PR should be aware of these signals and must be ready to deliver relevant insights. All too often they aren’t in the loop.

By cultivating a truly collaborative relationship based on useful data that helps executives shape and pursue corporate objectives, you can ensure comms doesn’t get left out in the cold.

“It’s a vicious cycle if you will,” Delic says, “where, because (comms isn’t) giving the board information they want, (comms isn’t) looking for the right information and they don’t provide that information. So then the C-Suite and the boardroom have less faith and trust in PR and comms.”

Don’t be afraid to ask executives what information they need most. Does the C-Suite want information on what competitors are doing so they can devise competitive strategies? Do they want to see the latest expert predictions in the space? Perhaps they want a deeper understanding of what a niche audience feels about a product or service. If you can deliver these things to company leaders on an ongoing basis, it’ll help them realize how essential your skills and services really are.

Measure Data That Truly Informs and Guides Corporate Decisions

Once you have a strong perception of the data signals that company leaders care about, you need to figure out how your data points can help bridge the gaps in their decision-making. This is better than just delivering the “same old” simple reports with data that illustrates reach, and little else—i.e., total number of mentions, number of new likes per week, etc.—with no clear notion of how to connect the data to an outcome.

“Try to find something that breaks that number down and tells your executives not only whether you’re doing a good job but also points the way to what you can do between reports to improve your performance and increase your effectiveness,” Delic says. “The more successful companies that we work with are the ones that are doing more of this.”

However, not every media intelligence tool will provide the same level of service. Delic says Meltwater analysts have been exploring the use of standardized tests. They include “an innovation index, a reputation index, industry leadership index, risk index, all sorts of ‘off the shelf’ options that someone can choose and then tweak to fit a particular situation.”  

No matter what media intelligence service you use, the important step is to begin by collecting the data relevant to corporate objectives, then explore ways to use that data to assist other departments as well as the company’s executives in reaching those objectives.