To Add Value, Ask the Right Questions First

February 6th 2015

Throughout my career, one of the things with which I’ve challenged myself most is how to help drive the businesses I’m working for.  It’s not just a catch phrase, but the way to approach any project, small or large, because – to truly add value – the needs of the business must come first. It may sound obvious, but in the dynamic world of public relations, where your projects can run the gamut from product launches to crisis communications, it’s easy to get caught up in the excitement and emotion of an assignment and lose sight of the bigger picture.  Here are five key questions that I use to help stay focused on driving the business and adding value:

 

  • What is the real challenge we’re trying to solve for? The answer is never “more media coverage.”  If you answered increased sales, shifting customer perception or mobilizing employees, then you’re headed in the right direction.  Media coverage is the tactic, not the strategy.
  • How does what we’re doing support the strategy of the business? Imagine yourself in front of the CEO and he or she asks this question.  Do you feel comfortable answering it?   If the answer is ‘yes,’ you have a winner.  If it’s ‘no,’ you should probably go back to the drawing board.
  • How are our efforts driving revenue? This is admittedly a tricky one, especially with communications. If you can’t make a direct or indirect argument for how the project will drive revenue, whether it’s through something like direct sales, enhanced reputation or stronger consumer engagement, think carefully about whether the project is a priority.
  • What will employees think of it?Employees are perhaps your best litmus test for whether or not an idea has value.  They know the business better than anyone, so before putting a plan in place, pause and ask a few colleagues for their opinions.  If you’re not getting a warm and fuzzy reaction, you may want to reconsider. Employees are the first line of defense and the best extension of your company’s voice. In fact, research shows that companies with highly engaged employees are more profitable.  It’s critical that your project is respected by employees.
  • What will happen if we do nothing? If the answer is ‘nothing’ think really hard about whether or not you want to invest the company’s resources in it.

 

Knowing your industry, your audiences and how to create great PR strategies and tactics is the cost of entry.  If you want to be a communications professional who helps drive the business, be a business strategist first, and a communications professional second.  Challenge yourself to see the larger corporate strategy, understand the issues that need to be solved for, identify the gaps in solving the issue and then recommend the right communications solution to help close them. That, for me, is the crux of how a successful corporate communications professional positions herself to drive value.

By: Jessica Antle, Practice Leader, Corporate Communications, Mfa, Ltd Marketing & Public Relations

 

Jessica recently joined Mfa to help build upon the agency’s corporate communications expertise.  With 18 years of communications experience, Jessica has worked for iconic brands like MasterCard, IBM, Schwinn and Cannondale and gotten in the trenches with start-ups like Orbiscom.  One week she may be counseling a CEO on a change management strategy, developing a national advocacy platform and running global campaigns in multiple countries and another week she’s launching a retail store in Long Island, all with the same focus on driving results. In her last role, she led an Integrated Marketing and Communications team for brands sold in more than 80 countries.

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