It’s widely recognised that the PR industry has long suffered a reputation challenge of its own. After all, it’s not rocket science, right? Anyone can do it! And we see this reflected at times when we go to meet a prospective client only to find that the receptionist or office administrator has been tasked with managing the agency with a brief to get the company into the press.

Aside from the appreciation for what a solid communications strategy can do for a company, this sets alarm bells ringing over the perception of how important the company takes its reputation, regardless of industry and scale. It’s not just the big brands that need to think about their stakeholders’ perception of the business. The potential commercial opportunities brought to any organization that attracts a fresh injection of capital, opens up new markets or strengthens partnerships, can open the door to new level of growth.

This begs the question, how many organizations that we work with truly position communications – or more importantly, reputation management – as a priority at the boardroom table?

Around this table the C-level executives may be more concerned with shareholders, profit and loss, and market performance than what the PR team is doing. But at the end of the day, success in these areas of business stem from the strength of reputation and relationships that a company holds with its groups of stakeholders, or ‘publics’. These are segmented and defined groups, with specific motivations, drivers and opinions that “big PR” is less likely to have influence over. It requires an approach that strategically considers the priorities of individuals and the actions it aims to inspire.

Influencer engagement that reaches beyond media to analysts, bloggers, investors and industry leaders too often represents a missed opportunity in the Middle East market. However, this is how investment in reputation and communication can extend beyond traditional media to reach new influential heights with the company’s proposition and message.

This more targeted approach is highly effective in engaging specific publics in a less crowded and noisy environment than that offered through the media. Engagement strategies and specialist forums that provide an opportunity for connecting to partners, investors and advisors more directly can elevate the ‘issue’ of communications to garner boardroom support and more closely relate impact to business success.

As with any boardroom discussion, however, the proof lies in the bottom line. Being taken seriously in this forum means application of business-led measurement criteria that shows a clear return on investment for the organization. Measurement on the ‘thud factor’ no longer applies and message resonance is hard to pin down to a dollar value. The C-suite discussion needs to capture influence, investment and profit in hard currency through business growth and opportunity such as new sales leads, value from alliances and the results of investing in reputation campaigns.

So, think again about the value that reputation management has in the boardroom of the organizations that engage your counsel. Adding real business value is the only way to shift our own reputation in this inner circle, and the best way for communications to earn its place at the table.

– Katy Branson, Head of Technology UAE at Hill+Knowlton Strategies Dubai

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