“It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you'll do things differently.” – Warren Buffet
Reputation is a key asset for any company, however corporate boards are packed with lawyers who can think analytically and accountants who can read balance sheets but neither are necessarily expert at predicting public opinion.
The problem is that you can have books that balance and strategies that are legal and still suffer severe reputational damage because no-one on the board has known how to ask the right questions or read the reputational writing on the wall.
In hindsight, we all too often can look back on a crisis and wonder what the board could possibly have been thinking!
It’s in this context that we argue the right communications professional can bring a lot to the boardroom table – not only in preventing or mitigating crisis, but much more.
A seasoned communications professional:
- brings decades of experience in sorting perception problems from reality problems, and working to resolve both;
- can offer an independent view on the likely reaction to any decision by external stakeholders such as government and media;
- can provide introductions — connections are their lifeblood;
- needs to understand situations and is not afraid to ask ‘dumb’ questions everyone else is too scared to raise.
Most business initiatives include a communications component. If everyone does the same thing as last year, you’re unlikely to reach a different and more desirable destination. If you want a better result, a group of people have to behave differently — and communications professionals can help you understand how to connect with and influence that group whether it’s customers, legislators, or staff.
Poor operational or regional performance often has its root causes that better communications and stakeholder engagement could help fix.
In an era where diversity has become a big issue for boards, communications professionals can also help — the field is dominated by women.