It’s More About GAAP Than Gap

17 Nov

You may have heard me say it before, and you’ll definitely hear me say it again (hint- great series of pros in future posts), but I believe that communications professionals do themselves a disservice by not having a good grasp on broader business principles and strategy.  If you’re offering your clients recommendations on one piece of the puzzle like media relations, social media, or internal communications but can’t make educated, informed comment on their business model and competition then you aren’t providing the full value they need. 

If you are working within an organization and want to have a role in the strategic direction of the company, it’s essential you can speak the same language as those you want to influence.  PR people cannot expect to walk into a C-level discussion and be viewed as an equal member of the team unless you can add real value to a discussion that stretches beyond how the company will capitalize on sales, but how you will drive sales. 

Fundamental to that level of discussion is viewing the business in the same manner that other leadership views the business.  Many communications/PR schools haven’t heavily integrated business programming into a PR track and many practitioners have come from a variety of backgrounds where they may not have been exposed to fundamentals of business strategy.  How can you pick up enough knowledge to put you on the right track?

Find a colleague who can serve as a mentor- This is a great way to learn more about specialties you may not initially understand well. In my experience, if you express an interest and willingness to learn, people are willing to help you along.  Many times they’re actually flattered.  This was especially true when I reached out to accountants who, I’m willing to bet, hadn’t really been approached often with people “wanting” to learn more about their jobs.

Expand that bookshelf- There are hundreds of great books out there that can provide an introduction to basic finance, accounting, sales theory, and business strategy.  A quick search on finance produced a great list of options to help you get started. 

Change your process- Before heading into any meeting, come up with a couple questions that you want to have addressed when you have time to do so without worrying about being on the spot in real-time.  If you’re looking to better understand the sales process, look at recent reports see what seems to be working and ask for more information on the “why” behind the success. Over time, you’ll learn a great deal and be able to better add value.

The Gap is great for a day of shopping, but better understanding GAAP can fund that shopping.

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5 Responses to “It’s More About GAAP Than Gap”

  1. Kasey Skala November 18, 2009 at 1:56 pm #

    Absolutely agree. Finance is an area that I think any PR person needs to be fluent in (I’m bias though, as I work in finance). Knowing how various business areas affect the overall profit of your business is key. How can sales be up, but revenue down? Get a brief overview from someone in your financial/accounting dept. about the basics, most people will gladly explain.

    If you’re speaking and communicating on behalf of your brand, do you want to be as well-educated as possible? I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been talking with friends and/or family and they bring up competitors. I have co-workers asking me why our competitors stock is going up while ours is going down (or vice versa, hopefully!). Follow your competitors. Know what they’re doing well, know what they’re doing poorly and know what they’re trying to do. Monitor their press room – what are they sending to the press?

    Most importantly, as you mentioned above, READ! And not just about PR or social media stuff. Read about innovation. Read about customer service. Read about self-improvement tips.

    Great post, Dave!

  2. Dave Folkens November 19, 2009 at 2:43 pm #

    Good points Kasey- thanks for mentioning the competitive aspect as well. It’s critical that you have a very strong sense of understanding the environment around you as well.

  3. josmosis6 November 19, 2009 at 11:17 pm #

    I think of credentials like a passport: just because you have one doesn’t make you a traveler – you want to have as many stamps from as many places as possible! Just because you have a title doesn’t mean you’re capable of it all. Finding a niche yet limiting yourself to its parameters can only be detrimental. Just because you’re excel at one aspect of the game doesn’t mean an all-around game isn’t necessary. Great points and suggestions for action. Asking for help can be hard, but it sure shows a lot about a coworker, and even more about a person.

    • Dave Folkens November 20, 2009 at 10:23 pm #

      Thanks for the feedback- and you’re absolutely right about asking for help. It can be hard but it’s something that the smartest people actually do quite often. When you’re honest about it and the questions are asked in the spirit of improving outcomes for the organization, it’s a welcome approach.

  4. Ken Kadet November 23, 2009 at 5:18 pm #

    Nice post, Dave.

    To agree: When I started out at my last agency (you know the one), when it was a handful of people, the guy who started the office said, “My goal is not just to have people who know PR, but to have each of us learn how this business works. We should run this place like a small business.” Lessons on the business in the agency and client business served well.

    You’re right… there’s value in having an ‘outsider’ point of view as a change agent, but you’ll definitely bump up against a host of barriers if you don’t understand organizational dynamics, business model, sales channel, and yes, even accounting…

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