Why PR deserves a seat at the decision-making table

When communicators are excluded from top-level talks, organizations can miss prime opportunities to elevate the brand. Here’s how you can make the case for participation.

How to earn a seat at the table

You know that feeling when you find out something your organization or client is doing, but it’s too late to take full advantage of it from a PR perspective?

Any communicator who wants to rise above “order-taker” status must be in the room whenever the organization is deciding when and how to pull the trigger on a new development. Sometimes you’re there to be the voice of reason and explain how it might backfire, other times to advise on how to leverage the new venture with key stakeholders.

That’s what happened this summer during an internal meeting at Duolingo, the company behind the No. 1 language-learning platform in the world.

Senior PR manager Michaela Kron was meeting with colleagues who were discussing which languages to add to the app. Among them were Navajo and Hawaiian.

Kron recalls: “I just threw out the idea of how cool it would be to launch them on Indigenous Peoples’ Day.” The team agreed, and all worked to have the courses complete and ready to launch Oct. 8, the date for this year’s observance.

The strategy was a success. The time element Kron conjured enhanced the newsworthiness of the announcement dramatically and, better still, gave journalists a deadline by which they’d need to cover it for greatest effect. That’s the best way to motivate them to act.

The announcement earned coverage in major publications and on top news networks.

For this to work, Kron needed two things:

  • A knowledge of contemporary culture and the media agenda. That’s why she’d recognized the growing movement to “rebrand” Columbus Day as Indigenous Peoples’ Day, and how journalists sought coverage tied to “new” or different holidays. That was her responsibility as a PR pro, and she was all over it.
  • Early access in the development of the new initiative to be able to influence its completion date. Now, contrary to what you might think, that was also her responsibility, not the responsibility of anyone else in the company. She met that standard for success, too.

If you or your colleagues keep finding out about stuff too late, then that’s your opportunity to insert yourself earlier into the discussions. Demonstrate how you can add value to the process; you’re there not to nitpick or naysay, but to boost the impact of the idea that your colleagues are cultivating.

Michael Smart is a PR trainer and coach. A version of this post first appeared on the PR Say blog.

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