Disgruntled board eradicates successful marketing department, by Golin MENA’s Amel Osman

While communication professionals continue to cast an eagle eye on campaign performance, they lose sight of the importance of B2B and B2G communications, writes Amel Osman, head of corporate practice at Golin MENA.

We have seen it happen, and it’s never comfortable viewing, entire marketing teams eradicated in one fell swoop. As they celebrate record-breaking sales, viral campaigns, and award-winning activations, they are blissfully unaware of the storm brewing in the boardroom.

When communicators are counselled on considering a company’s financial positioning at the strategy development phase, popular retorts include, “Our sales are through the roof compared to last year” or “We are not publicly traded, it doesn’t matter.”

A 300 per cent year-on-year increase in sales could mean one thing if last year was profitable. If the company was on the brink of financial ruin, the numbers take a dark turn. For an ailing business, it could mean that it has only just started to teeter on the edge of profitability. Profit and a sound financial reputation are what shareholders care about. Not viral campaigns, not award wins, and not record-breaking numbers on the social engagement front. Not to say that these markers are not necessary, but the context of the narrative cannot exist in a vacuum. While communication professionals continue to cast an eagle eye on campaign performance, they lose sight of the importance of B2B and B2G communications. The impact of this oversight is rarely visible in the short term.

This point of contention is where the distinct difference between financially astute communicators and those who focus solely on performance benchmarking as an indicator of success becomes evident. The financially oblivious are considered fast trackers, concerned only with wins during an ultimately short-lived tenure, agency, or client-side.

The onus does not lie only with the communicators. The c-suite, and board, must acknowledge the marketing team’s deserved seat at the table, not just a slot in the CEO’s diary. Yet many communicators are content with the latter. There is a pertinent responsibility at the CEO level and above to implement practices that do not leave communicators out in the cold. The adage ‘It takes two to tango’ is fitting. Developing effective communication strategies that address business reputation and performance concerns must involve communicators and high-level management taking to the dancefloor more frequently.

Communication professionals that weather the storm embrace a broader awareness not only of business objectives but a company’s financial position. They immerse themselves in communication at every level of the organisation, asking pertinent questions and engaging in dialogue beyond their departmental remit. I am not ashamed to admit it has taken me years to appreciate the full and deep impact of financial acumen in strategy development.

Now I prioritise guiding communicators embarking on their careers on the importance of adding financial acumen to their arsenal. While they have one eye on their departmental KPIs and another on wider business performance, they must also cast an ear in the direction of the boardroom.

Key takeaways from these conversations will help communicators determine if they are working in a silo of success or tangibly contributing to what key decision-makers want to achieve. Quite often, it is never the same thing.