BCM Experts’ Corner: Sarah Kent, MD – Whistle PR

We were very fortunate to catch up with Sarah Kent, Managing Director at Whistle PR and get her take on one of the most fundamentally important areas to focus on – getting the ‘green light’ for your marketing & comms activities from your senior board. Without further ado, here’s Sarah with her advice…

Sarah Kent Whistle PR Image
Whistle PR staff photography. Picture by Shaun Fellows / Shine Pix

Whether you’re working in-house or agency-side, getting board-level engagement in the development of your communications strategy is vital to its success. Senior level buy-in can often mean easier delivery, bigger budgets and internal recognition for the role that communications plays in organisational success. Here are my top questions to ask before you leave the boardroom:  

6 Killer Comms Questions You Should be Asking Your Board by Sarah Kent:

1. Where is the organisation going and what are the critical factors for its success?

A communications strategy should always be aligned to wider business objectives. But delve a little deeper than just the five-year plan – ask your board what they consider to be the key factors in achieving their goals. It could be diversification into new markets, changing outdated perceptions or recruiting and retaining the best people. Each of these would require a very different strategic approach.

2. Do you have a clear purpose and values?

No company or organisation can be on the outside what it’s not on the inside. Your culture IS your brand. You only have to look at the VW emission scandal or United Airlines’ treatment of its passengers to see that culture creates the framework for individual choices and actions.

A clearly defined mission, vision and values – and the behaviours that sit behind them – should be the cornerstone of your communications strategy.

3. Who are we trying to influence?

The more targeted your communications strategy, the more effective it will be. Do some audience segmentation work with your senior team to drill down into priority audiences and invest in robust research to give you a real insight into their key drivers, purchasing triggers and media consumption. Find out what your customers think of you now – and consider whether that’s how you want to be seen in the future.

4. What do we want to say (and do we have the credibility to say it)?

You might think your board are all on the same page when it comes to company messaging, but get them in a room together and, more often than not, everyone will have a slightly different take. Developing a messaging matrix is a great way of creating a framework for all communications activity. Capture the topics they want to be known for, the company message around each and, most importantly, the substantiation or evidence for their position. Do some gap analysis to ensure your company or client can walk the talk.

5. Are you invested?

The most effective communications strategies are those that are based around setting the agenda and leading the debate. But being an industry thought leader takes time and commitment. Is your board willing to work with you to develop a thought leadership strategy? And will they make themselves available for a fast turnaround interview or comment when a hot topic hits the news agenda?

6. What does success look like?

Perhaps the most important question to ask your board is how they will personally evaluate the success of your communications strategy. It could be quite different to the KPIs set by you or your client’s communications team. Ask about long-term results but also shorter-term wins – what one thing would they like to see your communications activity achieve in the first six months?

Establish this at the outset and you’ll ensure that everyone is focused on the same goals. It also gives you the opportunity to manage any unrealistic expectations from day one.

Sarah Kent is MD of Whistle PR which offers a range of integrated communications services including strategic consultancy, PR, social media and internal communications. For further information contact sarah.kent@whistlepr.co.uk

Hailing from an editorial background, a passionate wordsmith and writer, when Jordan's not here burning the midnight oil, he can be either found writing his novel, fulfilling his self-proclaimed DJ skills or lost in a state of rapture on an outdoors adventure.

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