Skill sets communicators need in the new world order of business outcome focused communication

The fact that a robust reputation is a core pre-requisite to business success is an absolute given in today’s stressed margins, future-uncertain environment. Thriving in a VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous) world requires a communicator’s play-book which is in a sense the distillate of heterogenous challenges. It hardly comes across as any surprise, therefore, that CFOs, who have more than just an abiding interest in their companies’ growth and well-being, are closely interfaced with anything and everything that affects this. In the First Partner’s India Innovation Outlook 2019 survey report which was recently released at the Innovation First Communication Conclave 2019, the CFOs expectations from communicators came to light as did the suggestions on what CFOs desired more from their communication teams.

CFOs have weighed in overwhelmingly on a simple overriding premise. Communicators absolutely need to upskill on those particular areas which directly impact the CFOs world-view and work domain. It is thus quite evident why 30 percent of the respondents in the survey said that they would like to see their communication partners become more skilled at outcome analytics and financial metrics. It may also be extremely interesting to note that another 30 percent of the respondents felt that communicators need to become better at addressing skill sets which focus on stakeholders not being addressed by other marketing outreaches. The other skills that CFOs are looking at in their communicator’s arsenal to improve are,

  • A better understanding of business requirements (20 percent responses), and
  • Employee communications (20 percent responses)

The CFOs’ skill set wish-list for communicators

Metrics and financial analytics, as can be seen from the CFO opinions, are one of the two most important skill sets CFOs would like to see bettered by their communication teams. And justifiably so too. All great partnerships are collaborative in nature. To do this, it is important that both the federating parties of the present instance communicate in a language that each understands. As business enablers, communicators must understand what CFOs want and are likely to appreciate. The business of communication will tantamount to near nought if clear outcomes as envisaged by the CFOs are absent. Since hard-won budgets have to rigorously be fought for and then valiantly defended, armed with a clear and relevant analysis of what the results mean for financial leaders, a communicator can hope to meaningfully aid in the smooth running of the CFO-CCO combine.

The second equally crucial and critical skill enhancement factor for communicators—the focus on non-marketing focused stakeholder group communications, is a subtler yet very powerful and potent tool. For CFOs, who have to be on their toes to unlock hidden value streams, a partner who can assist in doing this will be on an unfathomable value. Here, communicator skills which by practice and profession are supra-marketing in nature, can be engaged as a force multiplier. CFOs will appreciate an augmented reputational capital and a cementing of the organisational societal value through communicator interventions. This is something that is beyond the call and ambit of a marketer and brings with it a buttressing of corporate worth which pays back manifold, over many years.

Reputation runs business on steroids

It is of deep interest to communicators today that how best they can address the CFO’s metric question on the reputation dimension. It is clear that the return on reputation investment is of course both quantifiable and qualitative. For a resolution to both these issues, it is useful to look at what it is that actually constitutes business success from a reputation vantage. The survey yielded some very clear answers and indicators to this.

A good 40 percent of CFOs felt that a good reputation helps attract customers. The fine print here is not to be missed. If customers can be pulled by a good reputation, communicators who help build reputations will be playing centre-stage in driving corporate top-lines, shaving off bottom-line costs, and helping reduce the overall cost of capital and cost of operations as well. This is echoed by 30 percent of the CFOs who attributed business success to a good reputation helping save in capital and operating cost as well. A great reputation helps in finding good talent is what was felt by 20 percent of the respondents while 10 percent of those surveyed opined that a good reputation is responsible for their businesses being sustainable and profitable.

In summary

The role of CFOs is an enhanced one today. By being key participants in the shaping of corporate destinies, they are central to building business value for all stakeholders in all dimensions. Since reputation is so integral to this effort, CFOs could really do with a strong, capable support. This is where communicators can play a substantial part. However, before anything effective can be done, firm, reciprocal, and robust partnerships must be set up. The CFOs’ expectations in this context are therefore a matter of very close and serious consideration by organisational communication teams. This is what will differentiate the champions from the minions.

Innovator Rankings

The study also ranked the 2019 innovators among Indian and global companies. Following are the results:

Rank Indian Global
1 OYO: Global desi start-up Bytedance (Tik Tok): Building hinterland stars
2 RELIANCE Jio: Data commodotizer Xiaomi: Highest-selling phone brand
3 Paytm: Digital India Champ Netflix: Revolutionising entertainment at home
4 ITC: Successfully Diversified Google: Creating a future on innovation
5 Swiggy: Reshaping food-tech Whatsapp: Redefining messaging for a generation

The views expressed here are that of the author and do not necessarily reflect that of Reputation Today.

Atul Ahluwalia
Founding Partner at First Partners
A founding member of the Public Relations Consultancies Association of India (PRCAI), Atul comes with almost three decades of rich experience in Public Relations. He has worked across industries including banking, hospitality, consumer electronics, aviation, FMCG, information technology, telecommunications, among others.

Prior to founding First Partners, Atul spent close to twenty years with Weber Shandwick, India, including a lengthy stretch as its leader.

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