Danny Rogers on PR: The still small voice of the comms expert
A majority of FTSE 100 firms still do not have a communications expert on their executive board.
Research from headhunters Watson Helsby shows only 46 per cent of Britain's biggest companies give a seat at executive level to a communications or corporate affairs director.
I find this shocking when it has become clear that reputational errors regularly wipe millions of pounds off the value of FTSE firms. From BP's handling of the Gulf of Mexico crisis to the fall from grace of Bob Diamond at Barclays, we have seen how companies that fail to engage sufficiently with their stakeholders can take years to recover.
The advantage of having a comms expert at the top table is not only that they can help communicate the good things that a firm is doing – what we would understand as classic public relations – but that they can remind the board about the potential ramifications of certain business decisions.
Business leaders should now work on the basis that any big decision they take will eventually become public knowledge, thanks to the inherent transparency and traceability of digital communication.
Hence any decision should also be seen in the light of how it will ultimately play out in the eyes of the media, shareholders, customers and employees. In this sense, the senior comms adviser becomes the very useful "conscience" of the firm.
A number of well-known FTSE firms do employ comms directors on their executive board: Ian Wright at Diageo, Dominic Fry at Marks & Spencer, Charlotte Lambkin at BAE Systems and Sir John Grant at British Gas.
But even then it can be a lonely role. One director of comms confides: "Sometimes you simply have to tell the other leaders: 'Ethically, we cannot do this'. But you may be seen as standing in the way of revenue-driving decisions and take a lot of flak."
The best comms directors soon win the confidence of a smart chief executive, who recognises the value of a transparent culture and avoiding reputational errors. But those business leaders who do not give sufficient seniority to experienced and capable communicators will learn this lesson the hard way.
Danny Rogers is editor of PR Week
Malaysia Airlines plane crash exposes alarming flaw in airline security: over one billion flights made last year without stolen-passport check
Teacher shows sex tape featuring herself to pupils during class by mistake
David Cameron resorts to paying for Facebook fans because not enough people like him
Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370: Oil slicks in South China Sea ‘not from missing jet’, officials say
Swarm of killer bees sting woman 1,000 times
Britain's top vet sparks controversy with call for ban on slashing animals' throats in 'ritual' slaughters for halal and kosher meat products
If you're horrified by a flame-roasted dog, you should be shocked at a hog roast
Poor 'live like animals' says Boris's privately educated sister after going on 'poverty safari'
Exclusive: Impact of immigrants on British workers ‘negligible’
Vince Cable: Teachers 'know absolutely nothing' about the world of work
Ukraine crisis: Russia pledges to 'retaliate against sanctions' as Ukrainian president says Crimea vote will not be recognised
- 1 International Women's Day 2014: The shocking statistics that show why it is still so important
- 2 Australian man Rod Sommerville reacts to bite from deadly snake by reaching for cold beer
- 3 Singapore sting: Sky-high prices are pushing locals to the edge of affordability
- 4 Teacher shows sex tape featuring herself to pupils during class by mistake
- 5 David Cameron resorts to paying for Facebook fans because not enough people like him
iJobs Money & Business
£32000 - £36000 per annum + generous benefits: Pro-Recruitment Group: * TAX * ...
£55000 - £70000 per annum + benefits: Pro-Recruitment Group: In-House Corporat...
£80000 - £100000 per annum + benefits: Pro-Recruitment Group: In-House Opportu...
£30000 - £35000 per annum + generous benefits: Pro-Recruitment Group: Mixed Ta...