Geoff Curtis, executive vice president of corporate affairs and chief communications officer at global biotechnology company Horizon Therapeutics, has seen his profession from nearly every angle. He’s worked at boutique and global PR agencies, on in-house corporate teams, as a trustee with Institute for Public Relations and as a member of the Page Society.
It’s prompted him to understand that the communications role now plays an unprecedented part in contributing to the success of a business.
“Communications has a seat at the table now,” says Curtis. “It’s up to us to know what we bring to that table and to make sure we’re heard.”
In every instance, Curtis says, there are five things communication professionals can do to become active, strategic advisors to the C-suite.
If you’re ready to elevate your career, you need to know how to gain trust, influence and lead with thought leadership when interacting with your executives. In these steps, Curtis explains how you can add value as a trusted advisor and counselor.
Learn the business
Today’s top communication professionals dig deep to understand their company’s products, customers, competitors and industry and translate that into strategic storytelling.
According to Curtis, knowing every aspect of the business makes you a more valuable advisor to leadership. If you know what drives results, you can build communications that support business objectives.
“It can often be hard to track the ROI for communications but knowing what’s most important to your company helps you explain where your work can bring greater value,” Curtis says.
Participate on the bigger team
“I tell my team that we don’t work for our department – we all work for Horizon,” Curtis says, explaining the importance of being a strategic counselor to the business. He recommends adopting an enterprise mindset and constantly collaborating, thinking across business functions while asking, “What else can we do? Who else needs to know?”
Curtis emphasizes the importance of making yourself visible and known within your organization. You can put yourself on the company’s radar by showing enthusiasm and initiative so that you’re remembered and considered for new projects and opportunities.
Explore the open space
In every job, there are things you do well and other aspirations you’ll never pursue because of lack of time, budget or buy-in. Whenever possible, explore that open space and push yourself to think differently and engage in new practices. Curtis describes it as “broadening your personal portfolio.”
Similarly, you should keep an open mind when other people bring new ideas forward. Support an environment where inspiration flows and every new idea is a potentially great one.
“Creativity is not just artistic ability, but also an ability to think differently,” Curtis says. “Think beyond the obvious barriers and be more creative.”
Emphasize inclusivity and fun
Embrace diversity of experience, thought and background when building your team, assembling a cross-functional committee or special project team.
“Let it be known you’re actively looking for new stories to tell,” says Curtis. “You’d be surprised where you find great ideas.”
And when you find a great idea, pause to recognize it. Have fun together as a team. It helps foster connections and also increases your confidence.
Don’t be afraid to fail
If you don’t fail occasionally, it means you’re not thinking big enough. Turn your fear of failure into the freedom of failure.
“We can always figure out what went wrong and make something better next time,” Curtis says, “but we can’t fix what was never attempted.”
Giving yourself permission to fail also means admitting when you need help.
“I don’t believe in the ‘fake it until you make it’ approach,” says Curtis. “Good leaders aren’t afraid to fail. They know when they need help and are comfortable calling in other people and resources.”
Start putting these five steps into action by telling other people about your career goals. Your manager, professional mentors and advocates can help you prepare for and find your next career move. You should also be open to lateral moves or stretch assignments. It’s a great way to become better at strategic thinking.
After all, Curtis reminds us that professional communicators have a seat at the table now. Give yourself acess to the tools and skills you’ll need at that table.
Arek Gazda is a graduate student in DePaul University’s Professional Communication program and a professional communicator with experience in the financial and food service industries.
Kaitlyn Pacchini is a graduate student in DePaul University’s Professional Communication program and a professional communicator with experience in the healthcare, manufacturing and restaurant industries.