Your communications strategy and your message must be airtight when advocating in the court of public opinion. It’s risky business. Your reputation, your business goals…your very career…are at stake.
Some internal communications teams are up to the job; some are not, due to anything from inexperience to incompetence to indifference. That’s why many larger businesses rely on consultants experienced in communications strategy. It’s what smart businesses do.
When you decide to seek outside counsel, be alert to a couple of factors. Make sure your consultant will not slough off your program to junior account team staffers, and that he will not risk your reputation with a group of nebulous “associates” you’ll never meet. Insist on working with an experienced principal you know and can trust.
Your consultant should work with you to determine what communications strengths your organization already possesses, and which areas you need to sharpen. Ensure that your agreement outlines a communications strategy program suited to your specific needs while maintaining a degree of flexibility for the inevitable mid-course corrections. My belief is that, as the consultant, I should do the heavy lifting when it comes to strategy, freeing you to implement your plans.
Calling on outside consultants for help with communications strategy makes sense if your company confronts the following hurdles:
- The CEO who is not satisfied with his company’s message development and delivery.
- The C-suite leader trying to get his communications and government relations teams to play nice together.
- The business that needs an unbiased point of view on where your communications risks and rewards lurk.
- The corporate leader frustrated with getting his legal, finance, or marketing team to deliver a concise, consistent message.
- The firm concerned with ramping up its professional development choices.
- A technical expert who shies away from media interviews.
- The executive with a high stakes speaking or media opportunity staring him in the face.
- Businesses that confront challenges onboarding communications and government relations staffers.
- Communications teams that tremble when trying to counsel the C-suite.
- The government relations executive who needs to ramp up the performance of her advocates when they deal with policymakers.
Your path toward improvement may mean working with your consultant once a week, once a month, or anything in between. You may even decide to bring him on site for a week or two initially. He should also be readily accessible by telephone, videoconference, and email.
I’m curious to hear about your experiences with communications strategy consultants. What are the common traits of the good ones? How have they made your company better?