PR Execs Now Lead C-Suite Rather Than Follow

Is a PR background prime training for a senior level management position? Historically, it hasn’t been the case but things are changing.

Newly-named vice chair of GE, Beth Comstock, identifies her priorities as business innovation, corporate marketing, sales and communications.  Her previous experience includes several important communication and marketing companies such as NBC Universal.   This leadership role is uncharted territory for most marketing and PR professionals. For decades, these leadership positions have been reserved for experts on the business side, coming from finance or management — not marketing. Why the shift Because techniques and new channels of communications, like social media, are necessary for businesses to stay relevant with younger generations of customers and audiences.

Edelman Worldwide provides three main reasons why, over the next few years, more PR professionals will claim top management positions.  I quote Edelman directly from Why Beth Comstock Matters.

  • Business is increasingly dependent on social channels for customer service, new product introductions and employee connection.
  • The power of earned media is going to be enhanced even more by ad blockers touted by Google and Apple.
  • With the loss of trust in major institutions, there is dispersion of authority to friends and family, a peer-to-peer model best understood by PR executives.

PR is a profession that requires many different skills and I think that is what is making these new leaders so well suited for the job. I especially think bullet point number three of Edelman’s list is a key to moving communications quickly and efficiently to audiences.   Emerging generations rely heavily on social networks for information across a range of topics and it is critical companies find ways to become active in these networks. Experienced PR people are likely to find the correct avenues into these new audiences, which will ultimately lead to success.

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