Originally Published PR Week, January 28, 2011 (subscription access only)

Research among CEOs and line-of-business executives reveals that the single-most common criticism of communications professionals is that below the CCO level the function is primarily occupied by tacticians.

A common result: when divisional or business unit leadership meet to discuss strategy, the PR person -- perhaps other than the CCO -- is often left out.

Are most PR pros really not capable of engaging at that level?

Unlikely, but here are a few thoughts.

First, every CCO needs to be honest with his or her evaluation of talent.  The most critical time is when hiring is done. If we're candid, we often do hire tacticians. After all, we need to get things done.

We also tend to hire from a common pool, that is, people from within our profession.

The consequence often means a talent pool that doesn't have the same academic qualifications and /or serious business experience as other staff functions.

Bottom line: Hire smart. Raise the bar. And, as the business we're in gets increasingly sophisticated, there are plenty of high-ranking B-school grads, for example, who would welcome a career in our profession.

Second, and this is a tricky one, it just may be difficult to be both a tactician and a strategist at the same time.

Let's be clear: We need to do a lot more than provide counsel. We need to get stuff done. The greater the demands and the higher volume of output, the more communications staffers get buried in the day-to-day.  That may be reality.

But getting stuff done is a given. Flawless execution is a table-stake. No one earns a reputation for just doing what's expected of them.

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George Jamison, principal at Spencer Stuart, on today's communications landscape and job prospects for Chief Communications Officers.

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Originally Published PR Week, September 24, 2010

In conducting research recently on best practices in corporate communications functions, one thing in particular struck me.

In decentralized organizations, the best chief communications officers aspire to have large chunks of their time allocated for…nothing.

Let me explain.

The larger the enterprise, particularly when decentralized and matrixed, the more complex, the more players, the more issues, etc.  As such, the CCO is required to do all those things with which most of us are familiar: CEO counselor, communications strategist, leader of a large organization, responsible for talent management, etc., etc.

And then some.

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Originally Published PR Week December 11, 2009

Most companies are not paying out big bonuses this year, if they're paying anything at all. Exacerbating the situation is that many employees saw their salaries frozen during 2009. They're anxious, to say the least.

So how do managers throughout the company have conversations with employees as the year comes to a close?

Here are some thoughts:

First, don't duck the discussions. Employee anxiety only gets worse in the absence of credible information. You and your people must fill the void. No discussion is the worst possible scenario.

Second, the primary concern of many employees today is job security –

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PulsePoint Group
December 2, 2009

Jon Iwata, SVP of communications and marketing at IBM, gave the following speech on the future of the communications profession at the November 4th 2009 Institute for Public Relations Distinguished Lecture Series at the Yale Club in New York City.  If you weren't at the event, you should check it out; it's a compelling read for anyone keeping their finger on the pulse of the PR profession.

“Toward a New Profession: Brand, Constituency and Eminence on the Global Commons”


Good evening, everyone.


I am honored by the opportunity to speak with you tonight. I have long appreciated the research and education work of the Institute for Public Relations. And when I think about those who have preceded me at this podium over the years, I am humbled.


As anyone does who is invited to step up to this podium, I went back and read a number of the speeches of those who have appeared here over the past 10 to 15 years. And what struck me was that they were all, in one way or another, talking about the same thing: a fundamental shift in the world, in the nature and status of organizations and of business itself, and of the implications of all of that for our profession.

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Originally Published PR Week October 2009

If you’re a Tom Friedman fan, you know he doesn’t write much about the world of public relations. But he might as well have in one of his recent columns.

Headlined “The New Untouchables,” Friedman writes that in addition to our banking system needing a “reboot and an upgrade,” so too does our education system.

Against a backdrop of who is getting laid off in this economy and who isn’t, a clear trend seems to have emerged: “Those who have the ability to imagine new services, new opportunities and new ways to recruit work (are) being retained. They are the new ‘untouchables’,” Freidman writes. Those simply waiting for the economy to improve so they can resume their jobs the way they had in the past are the very people apt to be let go.

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PulsePoint Group
September 11, 2009

Check out this profile of management professor Ethan Burris by Tracy Mueller from the McCombs School of Business at the University of Texas-Austin on why an open, two-way employee feedback loop is vital to morale and idea generation.

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Originally published PR Week 

I recently had the privilege to be invited by the Council of PR Firms to join some colleagues in a teleconference/webinar about the strategies agencies can employ to do well in this difficult economy.


I was joined by Kathryn Metcalfe of Pfizer, Baker & McKenzie's Mark Bain, Peppercom's Darryl Siry, and by our moderator, Darryl Salerno of Second Quadrant.


It should come as no surprise that these folks had some terrific insights, ranging from high-value ways to help companies drive their businesses forward to basic recommendations on the importance of passionately focusing on client loyalty in such a tumultuous time.

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