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Communications: The Wilson Phillips of Business

You probably haven’t thought about Wilson Phillips in a while. When someone asks you what music you want to hear, Wilson Phillips probably isn’t anywhere near the list of artists you list.

When “Impulsive” comes on over the Walmart P.A., you probably don’t notice it as part of the background noise. If you’re at a bar and looking at songs to load into the TouchTunes jukebox, you don’t think of “You’re in Love” because you’re too busy wondering if it’s okay to play “Welcome to the Jungle” or “I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll” for the 50,000th time.


But let’s be honest – when Wilson Phillips showed up at the end of “Bridesmaids” to perform “Hold On,” you cheered and started singing along. (It’s okay to admit it... you weren’t the only one.)


Many leaders don’t think of Communications as an integral part of the essential soundtrack of a business. Anyone can write an all-company email, right? If a major publication calls, these executives know the business well enough to just comment right off the bat, yeah? Surely, everyone pays attention to everything the CEO says, even if it’s a twice-a-year message, and takes it to heart on a daily basis?


When communications are done well, the work done by the Communications team is a bit taken for granted... kind of like “Impulsive” over the Walmart P.A. Leaders see the Comms team as the background music – great, the customers are still shopping blithely because you didn’t suddenly stick Insane Clown Posse in the playlist, but that’s kind of the job, no?


No, because it takes skill and expertise to guide things along smoothly so the experience is well-received by employees, customers, shareholders or whoever else is hearing the message. Involving the Communications team upfront helps construct the messaging and themes in ways that will best resonate... or to continue the metaphor, we assemble the perfect playlist so everyone has a good time and a good experience overall. We know how things hit people and can apply our know-how so the narrative doesn’t go off the rails, and we can prevent mishaps before they happen. (See: Boeing, Kellogg’s, the Royal Family, etc.)


Perhaps because it is so easy for a leader to apply fingers to keyboard and write their own email or get on Zoom and do a media interview, they underestimate the value that Communications professionals bring to a company. Communications can be a slightly intangible skill that’s easy to take too lightly. But if a senior leader wouldn’t take it upon themselves to rework the numbers provided by Finance or redesign a product developed by Engineering, why are they so quick to disregard the expert counsel being provided and work being done by Communications?


Communications people seem to be inherently humble about the work we do. When things go right, we high-five ourselves and move onto the next 100 items on our to-do list, and we don’t expect much recognition from senior leaders.


But when things hit really right for Communications, it’s like the closing to “Bridesmaids” where everyone starts getting into “Hold On” despite not having thought about that song in years. And isn’t that the response you want a majority of the time?


Give your Communications experts a seat at the table and a voice in the conversation upfront. When you do, you can get the whole movie theater singing along with you exuberantly more often than not.

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