by Melissa Barecca
A strategic PR counselor should be part of the executive decision-making team at casinos
Public Relations by Melissa Barreca & Kathy Callahan
Try this exercise. Ask a colleague to look around them and make note of everything that is blue. Now, have them close their eyes. Once their eyes are closed, ask them to tell you what around them is red.
Almost no one can describe everything that is red because they are focused on blue. Our perceptions work the same way-we tend to see what we expect to see or what we are trained to see. Likewise, when we as business leaders are charged with making important decisions, it's vital to surround ourselves with as many differing perspectives as possible to avoid missing a key piece of information that we, as individuals, might not see.
Decision making is the most important part of any manager's job. Whether it's enacting a new policy or making a scheduling change for a department, the course of action you take will reverberate throughout the organization.
More than just an item on your "to do" list, every decision is an opportunity to build loyalty, whether it affects employees, shareholders, local citizens or any other important group.
So how can you ensure that you are making sound decisions and ones that will improve your relationship with stakeholders?
Calling in the experts
The best leaders are those that surround themselves with expertise and use it wisely. Depending on the scope of the issue at hand, executives may consult with a knowledgeable attorney, a sharp finance executive and an engaged HR leader, the resident marketing guru, and others. But there's one key person many neglect to involve, thereby missing an important perspective.
A strategic PR expert should be on your speed dial. Whether this person is inside your company or an outside consultant, a communications strategist with a strong knowledge of your business can not only masterfully communicate decisions made, but can also proactively identify the potential opportunities or likely backlash for each of a variety of options during the decision making process.
Consulted early and often, good public relations counsel is cheap insurance against potential problems with interest groups. PR provides a sounding board for decisions, analyzing how a course of action or policy will be perceived by those outside the boardroom. PR can also maximize goodwill with your key stakeholders from employees to regulators and the media by identifying issues or opportunities that may otherwise go unnoticed.
The right mindset
In any discipline, the quality of the practitioner-in both experience and critical thinking ability-is the key to their value to the organization. If you don't see your top PR person as a valuable asset to your executive team with the ability to provide insights into each of your key publics, perhaps you have the wrong PR person. Your senior PR practitioner should have the mind of a strategist and a solid understanding of your company's vision and business objectives. Technical communications skills like writing and editing are cost of entry for PR people. Look for a real understanding of how to unlock the hearts and minds of your stakeholders when staffing for public relations or communications executives. Only those that can employ high-level thinking with tactical expertise will add value to your organization.
The right PR expert can: prevent decision-making from occurring in a vacuum absent from important outside perspectives; stop your company's actions from offending key audiences; and prevent unwanted surprises by identifying issues coming down the pipeline. When an unpopular decision or stance must be taken because it makes business sense, a talented public relations strategist can craft a pre-emptive plan to minimize resistance and inspire acceptance.
Key part of team effort
On a higher level, the PR team can become one voice of conscience for the organization when engaged in the boardroom. PR, more than any other discipline, is charged with understanding your audiences and seeing things from their perspective. It can bring together many moving parts and analyze them "where the rubber meets the road."
If you're facing a decision, for example, of whether to cut a certain number of staff from a department, your attorney will advise you on legal matters, your HR expert will tell you the correct procedure to follow, your operations managers will discuss business levels, your finance counsel will pencil out the bottom-line impact…and your PR counsel will tell you how the decision will be viewed by employees (and possibly the community if the story is big enough to attract media attention) and how to best communicate your chosen course of action.
Each advisor brings their own valuable expertise to the process. Omit one, and you run the risk of making a poorly informed decision which can negatively impact your business.
In any situation, bring all key advisors to the table. By including a variety of perspectives and areas of expertise in your decision making, you will form a full picture of your options, their benefits and their consequences. That's the optimal environment for decision making. CJ
Melissa Barreca is communications project manager at Ameristar Casino St. Charlesin St. Charles, Mo. She can be reached at (800) 325-7777, or by e-mail at email@example.com. Kathy Callahan is director of communications for Ameristar's corporate office in Las Vegas. She can be reached at (702) 567-7053, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.