Why Strategic Communications Must Have a Seat at the Executive Table

It’s no secret that strategic communications play an integral role in business strategy and success. Why, then, is it still largely absent from organizational decision-making?

In the last 10 years, we’ve seen the growth of CMOs at the executive table but still don’t often see a chief communications officer taking a seat. All too often, communications departments have more of an advisory say in an organization’s decision-making process. Typically, they are informed about a decision after it has been agreed upon and are tasked with disseminating the information.

We all, for the most part, understand that communication tactics include far more than mere publicity stunts and generic email blasts. Good communication rooted in strategy will always be more effective because it considers the nuances of a brand’s story, values and voice and ties them to the overall business goals of the organization.

The Strategy in Strategic Communications 

Before I get into details, let’s establish what I mean by “strategic communications.” When you integrate strategic planning and research into purposeful messaging that aligns with your business goals, you’re effectively engaging in strategic communication practices. It’s about getting the right message in front of the right people, at the right time and through the right channels.

Anyone can create a website, send out newsletters and post on social media. But no matter what communications tactics you use, without a strategy to guide them, these efforts will not amount to much when it comes to meeting key performance indicators (KPIs) and return on investment (ROI). It’s the modern equivalent of creating a brochure or static billboard because everyone else has one, so we should too.

Think of your communications toolkit as a set of golf clubs. You never use all of your clubs at the same time, nor do you use the same club for every shot. If you did, you’d either overshoot or undershoot your target, or miss altogether, slicing off in the wrong direction. Instead, you’ve got to be strategic and select the club best suited to the specific target you’re going after.

Strategic communications, when integrated and intentional, increases the likelihood of achieving corporate goals—whether that includes boosting sales or bolstering reputation. It helps you craft a compelling message and decide whether it should be messaged with a press release or an Instagram post. Combine strategic communications with collaboration across organizational departments and you’ve got a successful plan for sustained growth, whatever that looks like for your business.

Making Room at the Executive Table

When you give strategic communications a seat at the decision-making table, you make room for well-informed decisions as well as the understanding of how they will best be communicated to your stakeholders. I’m not suggesting that communications should be at the helm of all organizational decisions, but it should be involved and part of the group that influences what goes on behind the scenes.

Being strategic and purposeful in your communication and aligning it with organizational objectives means you won’t end up sending mixed signals. Trust me: Inconsistency between what your organization says it does and what it actually does is not a good look. Neither is your communications department having to play catch-up on decisions they were not privy to.

When I talk about strategic communication deserving a seat at the executive table, I’m referring to a relationship with the C-suite built on trust, collaboration and transparency. I am talking about the highest communication title your organization has. Whether you call it a director or a vice president of communications, as long as they have a say on the important decisions, the semantics don’t matter.

Perhaps it is time we add another “C” to the C-suite. Remember the set of golf clubs for communication tactics analogy? A chief communications officer, given the chance, could help you choose the right club to get that hole-in-one.

Are you ready to up your organization’s communication game? Let’s chat!

This article originally appeared in the March 27, 2023 issue of Forbes.

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