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Be the CEO: 3 ways to break down the silos in business

Be the CEO: Breaking down silos in business

photo credit: Gabriel White via photopin cc

“Business doesn’t understand public relations, and public relations doesn’t understand business.” With the start of another semester for my master’s degree last week in New York City, one of my professors immediately grabbed my attention on the first day with this statement. As my classes continue to become more business management centered, I’m understanding this sentiment more and more.

The public relations silo

As I’ve defined the profession before, PR is all about building and managing relationships with a variety of stakeholders. You ask a PR professional where to go online to reach opinion leaders of a  millennial demographic stakeholder group, she can whip out a social media platform usage numbers spreadsheet that would put a statistician to shame. Want to know what your employees are saying about working for your company? That PR practitioner that specializes in internal communications can deliver and interpret the results from the latest employee satisfaction survey he developed, distributed, and received a 42 percent response rate for faster than glassdoor can download. Ask a PR person how the latest earned media coverage supports the company’s differentiation strategy, and you might hear crickets.

Sheryl Sandberg of Lean In fame once started a presentation by asking audience members who had considered becoming CEOs to stand. Out of approximately 1,000 people, only about five stood up. Her advice: if you want to be taken seriously by the boss, you should be able to see yourself as a CEO. The same goes for PR professionals. Though as a behind-the-scenes profession we may not aspire to be CEOs, it should be within our capability to step into the position and excel. We can’t do that if we continue to stay in our comfort zone of just PR.

How public relations can break down silos in business

A public-affairs-specialist-turned-professor from the Defense Information School once told my class how she only spent about 30 percent of her time in the office. The rest, she was out and about meeting, talking and just being with employees from other departments. Also known as MBWA, or management by walking/wandering around, she also encouraged her commanders to do the same. I took her advice to heart, and in my former position as a public affairs officer I became known as the go-to person for information. It was my tag line that I may not know the answer to a question but I knew who would and where to go to find out.

The PR department is the prime office to break down the silos in business. With our (hopefully) direct access to senior leaders and our ears on the ground, there are several ways we can do this:

1. Meet with other departments

Like my former instructor, you can’t be that conduit of information for the organization if you don’t get out of your office and meet other people. Depending on the size of your PR department, it may be possible to assign a staffer to each department to attend staff meetings or other key gatherings. A one-man show? Aim for once-a-month informational coffee breaks just to hear the highlights and what is concerning the CFO or CIO.

2. Shadow another job

Get your hands dirty! There’s really no better way to understand what your fellow organization employees are doing than getting into the trenches with them. Take a day or even a few hours each month to share in the responsibilities of another department. Have a call center? Train and take a customer service call. Go for a ride along with a service technician. With a waterborne mission on an Army post, I went out on a training exercises aboard a Logistics Support Vessel to better understand the position of a mariner soldier.

3. Read outside your area

I read a ton of marketing blogs, join communications groups on LinkedIn, and subscribe to PR journals. I highly recommend keeping up with the trends in your industry, but if you want to be credible to your clients or in your organization, you have to understand what’s going on outside of your area. When I picked up an education consultant client, I began to read blogs about school turnarounds and joined LinkedIn groups of primary and higher education associations. There is a reason PR professionals are known as jacks of all trades.

How are you breaking down silos in business?

These are some great starts to branching out beyond your area, but I want to hear your ideas on the topic. What have you done to reach out to other areas of business?

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One Comment to "Be the CEO: 3 ways to break down the silos in business"

  1. […] first post I’ll show you ways how PR supports your business, then I’ll discuss how PR can play well with other areas, and I’ll wrap it up with my first podcast about branding yourself in […]

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