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.