Does PR Deserve a Seat at the Boardroom Table?

Written by Cedric Vanhaver, Vice President, FleishmanHillard Hong Kong

Too many executives fail to see the important business need that the communication function serves

Often seen by management as mere “spin-meisters,” PR pros usually get little attention at the boardroom table. In fact, in many cases, PR pros only make it into the boardroom when a company or one of its executives faces a major crisis.

When this is the case, however, the communications function is in a position to make meaningful recommendations on how the company and its management should move the business forward, both from a short-term and mid- to long-term perspective.

Of course, when a crisis hits the fan, the cost of repairing a reputation is often much bigger than the cost of good, ongoing communications counsel would have been. Like a canary in a coalmine, PR pros are often privy to issues before most employees in other functions, so they can help to avert crises through prevention but this ability is only rarely used to full effect.

This is exactly why PR pros should have a seat at the boardroom table. Crises are often the result, not of bad luck or accidents but rather of deep-rooted office-culture issues that plague a company, unaddressed for months or sometimes years. Having visibility across functions and levels of a company means that PR can be aware of issues that management cannot always see.

As internal communicators, PR pros have the power to set the tone of what’s being communicated within the company. If all they are asked to do is to spin or mitigate, the company may be in need of a cultural overhaul. And if external communicators are continually being asked to handle difficult media issues, the company more than likely needs to reconsider some of its business practices.

Lack of authenticity will eventually catch up to a company and its executives. In today’s era of unprecedented access to information, end-users demand transparent and authentic engagement from leadership. With PR sitting at the center of a company’s communications activities, the function has the power to give the company more than just a voice—a guiding light for authentic customer engagement and business direction.