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
- 1 Sofyen Belamouadden murder: The inside story of a crime that horrified Britain
- 2 How to turn off/stop 'seen by' on Facebook: Disable it to make your chats seem less passive aggressive
- 3 Company breaks open Apple Watch to discover what it says is 'planned obsolescence'
- 4 'We're not heroes, just tourists': Swedish police officers on holiday stop vicious assault on New York subway
- 5 Buckingham Palace guard who attacked passers-by in 'most most violent piece of CCTV footage' police officer had seen walks free
Top 20 misconceptions people believe are true
Sofyen Belamouadden murder: The inside story of a crime that horrified Britain
'We're not heroes, just tourists': Swedish police officers on holiday stop vicious assault on New York subway
Nepal earthquake: More than 1,100 killed across four countries and in Mount Everest avalanche
Australian student Tommy Connolly, 23, adopts his pregnant, homeless 17-year-old cousin to give her a chance at 'a better life'
The sickening truth about food banks that the Tories don't want you to know
Katie Hopkins on LBC: Listen to caller taking The Sun columnist to task over migrant comments
Migrant boat disaster: Ukip candidate mocks victims in sickening Twitter post
Nigel Farage wants the BBC to stop making programmes like Doctor Who, Strictly Come Dancing, and Top Gear
Global warming: Scientists say temperatures could rise by 6C by 2100 and call for action ahead of UN meeting in Paris
Rupert Murdoch berated Sun journalists for not doing enough to attack Ed Miliband and stop him winning the general election
iJobs Money & Business
£50000 - £55000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Business Analyst - Financial Service...
£18000 - £23000 per annum + OTE £45K: SThree: At SThree, we like to be differe...
£20000 - £25000 per annum + competitive: SThree: Did you know? SThree is the o...
£22000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...