The structure of today’s communications organization is quickly becoming something quite different than just two or three years ago.

Full-time talent is now being recruited with skill sets in big data and performance metrics, brand creativity and multi-platform content creation; new departments are popping up like content factories, data and analytics, and content syndication.

Digital is the great catalyst for all of this.  

And whether or not your reporting structure has changed, new models are now required, along with new processes, new training and new talent, in order to optimize the potential that digital affords.

Organizational Audit

There are several compelling reasons to conduct a thorough, independent organizational audit: a new CEO has a new vision for the company; a new chief communications officer embarks on a new path for the function; a new corporate strategy is introduced, based on a restructuring or an opportunity for growth.

Key questions include: Do you have the right talent? Is your function resourced properly? Are you properly aligned with your business units? Is the function seen as strategic or tactical and, if the latter, how best to effect change? Do you have the right external resources? Too many or too few agencies? Is the money being spent wisely?

Our Organizational Audit protocols are designed to provide each client a customized assessment of their organization, its place and perceived value in the larger company, its strengths and weaknesses. We offer recommendations, as appropriate, for productive change.

We’ve found that a knowledgeable third party—that can bring objectivity to the process and introduce best-practice comparisons—can make a positive difference to both senior management and staffers when “selling in” recommended changes.

Staff Restructuring

Many chief executives and chief communications officers wrestle with the “right” structure for their organizations: centralize or decentralize, functional specialization or tight business unit alignment, and so forth. The goal inevitably is to maximize the value of the function to the organization and to ensure a smooth, well-run group.

We examine staff structure from several key perspectives: alignment of communications needs with business strategy; inventory of needs vs. staff size and productivity requirements; functions that should be centralized vs. decentralized; global integration of the communications function; talent assessment; cultural barriers to success and industry best practices.

This assessment provides the basis to make decisions that drive tangible results. What is the optimum number of staff? What should be handled in-house and what may be better outsourced? Where should staff reside? What reporting structure makes the most sense? How are other best-in-class companies structured?

Corporate Themes/Metrics

Often, somewhat innocently, companies discover that too much of their communications activity is not focused on the absolute highest priority needs of the organization. After several years, work is frequently done because “that’s the way it’s been done.”

The consequence: senior management’s perception that communications people are busy, but toward what end? How is their work impacting business performance?

We tackle this common challenge with a two-step process:

First, we collaborate with clients to identify a core set of corporate themes and messages that are tightly aligned with the company’s major business priorities. These themes become the prism through which all activity must be seen and evaluated. If work being done isn’t driving critical business issues, its status must be re-evaluated. Identifying and articulating a core set of thematic platforms for the company brings clarity and support across the entire employee base.

Then, we help develop a set of metrics to track how communications activity is impacting these key business drivers. The deliverable is a content-rich, one-page dashboard that captures platforms, program goals, strategies and metrics. This dashboard, usually produced quarterly, is a clear and compelling report to management on how the communications function is contributing to business performance.

Accountability/Staff Utilization

We’ve found that many corporate communications groups struggle to ensure staff accountability and maximize staff utilization. In the agency world, billable hours provide leadership with the information it needs to drive optimal staff utilization and accountability … ensuring maximum productivity. But in the corporate world, most current processes aren’t ideal.

Our protocols allow management to leverage their staff against the group’s strategic priorities much the same way agencies do, without tracking time in the agency sense. Through a customized set of metrics and a hands-on approach to utilization, we help companies maximize employee downtime by identifying time lost and time spent on projects not driving the company’s strategic initiatives.

Agency Deployment

How many agencies do you need? Which ones? Are you paying them too much? The question of agency deployment is rarely as simple as conducting a search to meet a new need. Some companies have more agencies than they need and some have too few. Some aren’t getting access to the talent they deserve. And some aren’t experiencing the pricing benefits their contracts should afford them.

We begin with an audit of your agency relationships: whom you work with, what you’re paying them, for what work. We then explore the agency’s performance and work with communications staffers to identify the strengths and weaknesses of each. Sometimes this evaluation leads to a search to find new agencies to service important work that’s been overlooked. Sometimes it leads to consolidation. Sometimes it leads to contract and rate renegotiations. In our experience, it almost always leads to higher quality and productivity.

Outsourcing

There are typically two dimensions to communications outsourcing. The first is offshoring. A considerable amount of work being done by communications groups these days can be offshored for time, cost and quality improvements. Media monitoring, for example, can be done at a fraction of what it costs to pay U.S.-based talent. And, such outsourcing leverages time zone advantages as well as a work force that can produce the industry’s highest quality work in this niche.

The second dimension of outsourcing is the evaluation of how much fixed cost is appropriate inside your corporation vs. how much you utilize external partners (such as agencies) to accomplish. There is no easy formula for this, but more companies are finding it attractive to reduce fixed costs and to retain outside business partners when and where needed. Such an approach can indeed save costs as well as afford companies superior talent for particular needs. But, unless closely managed from the beginning, such a strategy can also backfire and result in runaway costs. We advise companies on outsourcing right.