The Wizards of Silver

The one chip most veterans of the communications business have been flaunting is their access to the top brass of their organisations. While traditionally, and often even through practice, the communication function has been largely aligned with the CMO or the CEO office in an organisation, there has emerged today a new reality which has the potential of forcing a sea change.

As times evolve and businesses confront pressures of a connected, open, and a digitally more diverse world market, navigating a company to the path of predictable business success is every board’s biggest priority today. Interestingly, the definition of what business success means, is itself a subject of deep discussion among business leaders and corporate analysts. One thing is sure. It is not about financial success alone. Largely, business success has moved from being about shareholder value creation to stakeholder value.

To be successful, enterprises have to deal with a multitude of stakeholders who are critical for the overall business success. Therefore, the reference frame for success is no longer hinged on customer acquisition or revenue growth but includes aspects like business longevity and sustainability. The canvas has been expanded and value creation is the new brush – a much bandied about yet unfortunately very little correctly understood term. Successful brands are building access highways for enabling effective trust-leveraged value creation for diverse audience such as regulators, channel partners, employees, communities of associates, customer associations, and of course families of employees. In India, the regulatory framework formally recognises the need for profit-making companies to contribute to the society, in an auditable and measurable form.

The CFO function: Preceptor and auditor of value

Leadership of an organisation is focused on business goals, and CFOs, as indispensable and universal participants of this leadership team, have an equal stake in the growth and enhancement of their organisation. Today, the CFO’s are increasingly being tasked with quantification of stakeholder value creation. No wonder then that these metrics are now the new highlights of most annual reports.

The other commonly sought aspect is the brand value enhancement. Brand value and stakeholder value are two sides of the same coin. The value of its brand, in not just financial but societal, and business partnership value creation terms is by far the biggest asset of a company. Hence, in this context, there is an immediate need for progressive organisations to understand and recognise the key role their CFOs play as brand and vision champions. As a custodian of a company’s financial health, CFOs have a more fulfilling, better rounded role and one which is full of purpose and direction particularly because they are seen as natural custodians of their company’s capital and reputation capital is no different today.

When it comes to driving business outcomes for an organisation through communication, CFOs hold the key.

To drive business success, the primary need of a company is, in a nutshell, to set, meet, and exceed goals which relate a whole spectrum of stakeholders. A fait accompli here is that goals achievement is impossible without great communication. A quick scan of recent corporate developments, particularly in the BFSI and realty space, acers to the fateful veracity of this axiom.

The new reality: Building diversified value through communication

The connect that exists between business or brand communicators and the corporate financial lead is not immediately self-evident. However, on a moment’s reflection, it becomes clear that this is an inalienable construct on which effective business outcomes rest for most modern organisations

The role of communication itself is undergoing transformation as a potent business tool. The new reality which is emerging is that communication campaigns can significantly and directly influence business success for organisations. Through careful planning, and step-by-step execution with a sharp eye on business goals, communication can help build stronger trust among a much wider compass of external and internal stakeholders. These could be new customers, existing customers, employees, regulators or civil society et all.

It is therefore imperative that CFOs as the custodian of a company’s business success have a stake in the communication process. It is only when they can evaluate the contribution of business success through communication in an auditable form, can they do justice in allocating optimal budgets to the function. There are organisations where sub-optimal success is merely a consequence of inadequately invested communication programmes. It is no wonder that hugely successful brands have well-established and adequately-resourced communication functions.

For more conversations around Innovation (if you are an in-house communications professional), attend the Innovation First Communication Conclave in Gurgaon on Thursday, March 7th, 2019.

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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