Rant: Can Communicators get a seat at the table?

seat-table

Given this blog site is titled, “Rants & Raves,” one could say that my prior posts were all “raving.” In other words, hopefully useful tips presented with a positive message. So, it’s high time for some ranting. But don’t worry. I promise there will still be usable information here. After I rant a little.

You know how fashion seems to repeat itself every, what is it, 20 years? I swear between platform shoes, maxi dresses, peasant skirts and now lace-inspired looks, I have been living the fashion déjà vu for at least the last decade. And so it seems with the topics that professional Communicators fret over, talk about and generally commiserate on.

Number one on the list when I was just starting out, and then 5 years on, 10 years on and well, it never really went away … was the “how do we get a seat at the table” question. A question which boils down to not feeling the profession gets the respect it deserves.

Having worked with many executives, I have to admit I have experienced a few that seemed to give Communications lip service. But there were so many others that were wonderful to work with because at the core we each respected what the other brought to the table.

Still, I certainly have seen organizations “demote” the Communications function from direct-to-CEO lines and felt the twinge like everyone else on the team that it meant a loss of respect for what Communicators offer, let alone necessary access to the top. Yet, the profession also appears to be garnering an all-time high of acknowledgement from CEOs as to the importance of the function in business. This is particularly true with the skillset of Public Relations when it is tapped for crisis management.

Something tells me that Communicators are not alone in this. That Rodney Dangerfield sense of “I don’t get no respect” can be heard from marketing pros in sales-oriented organizations, from sales teams in marketing-led organizations, from … well from just about any profession that isn’t credentialed like lawyers. (And, who today will argue that lawyers get more respect? Sorry to my lawyer friends.)

But the credentialing argument goes on and on, particularly since many non-accredited professions (including Communications and PR) have developed their own systems to try to even the score and differentiate one level of experience over another. Not that accreditation is a bad thing, it’s just that the argument for and against has gone on forever, hence feeding into the lack of respect perception.

But really, what is behind this sense of no respect anyway? Certainly, you must know of some very amazing professional Communicators who have attained that C-suite status. And yes, you could validly argue there just aren’t enough of them. But there are scores of others in every level of the Communications organization who clearly have the ear and respect of their executives.

I have to wonder with the Millennials seeming to not be as concerned with climbing the corporate ladder if, in fact, the argument will finally become mute. Interesting thought but like every generation, at some point they too may consider a change in how they are thinking at the beginning of their career compared to later. Maybe not, but it is a possibility.

Either way, if you are wondering how those dynamic communicators you know did it … win the respect of their executives, that is … well, here are a few thoughts. These are pretty basic actually, but like many things in life, saying and doing are two different things.

Just like being a good dinner party guest, these “etiquette” tips can help you get a seat at the table of professional respect:

  • Be conversational!
    How much do you know about the business and industry you are in? If you want to advise management, you absolutely must know how the business works just as well as you know your own skill set. Being conversational means you can bring the right discussions to the table.
  • Be the one they want to invite!
    Do you know what the exec’s challenges are? Can you help solve those? The exec may empathize (or not) but most likely does not have time for your problem. Be a solution provider, not a problem raiser. Being the one they want to invite to the party means you are trusted to add value. You can anticipate what the host (exec) needs, who to bring together for the solution and you can be counted on to get it done.
  • Be a pleasant guest!
    What’s that saying about how others don’t make you feel a certain way, only your reactions to their actions do? Something like that. Well, that is definitely true in any profession. If you don’t believe in yourself, who will? But don’t get cocky. Being a pleasant guest means being confident in yourself. And confidence will take you a long way, but only when you have actually earned it.

Bon Appétit!

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About csrtrans

President/Senior Consultant & Global PR professional. CSR Transformations, Ltd. offers a consortium of independent consultants from around the world providing contracted expertise in Communications, Public Relations and Corporate Social Responsibility.
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