HomeBlog Strategic Advisor Vs. Service Bureau: The Many Hats Communications Leaders Wear

Strategic Advisor Vs. Service Bureau: The Many Hats Communications Leaders Wear

March 29, 2017 | By Laura Sudnik

  • Communications teams must support an overwhelming communications agenda, including strategic priorities and the overall business needs
  • Communications leaders need to evaluate the team’s structure, resources and processes to determine how to drive strategic value
  • A strong functional design of the communications team provides structure, role clarity and processes for managing initiatives

Are we strategic advisors or a service bureau? This is one of the pressing questions corporate communications leaders face today regarding their function in many b-to-b organizations. Corporate communications is responsible for driving strategic communications initiatives, protecting the organization’s image, and building its visibility and awareness – but the function also has to act like a service bureau to support the larger organization’s myriad communications needs. As a result, corporate communications wears multiple hats to help manage the wide-ranging communications needs of the business.

The challenge often comes in how to support the strategic, high-priority initiatives along with other communications needs. Teams should prioritize the overall needs of the organization according to their strategic value. Then evaluate the team’s structure, including the roles and responsibilities of each team member, to ensure alignment with the organization’s key initiatives. Next, consider the infrastructure and processes necessary to fulfill the requests that fall outside those priorities. Lastly, construct success metrics for the function that illustrate the strategic value of its program.

Consider these four elements for balancing the roles of strategic advisor and service bureau for communications:

  • Structure. The communications function comprises nearly 15 to 20 sub-functions ranging from public relations to creative services. Consider how these sub-functions interact with each other and identify opportunities for them to perform better from a collaboration and productivity standpoint. These teams should have a clear understanding of which initiatives to prioritize and the processes for activities that fall outside these parameters. When working with different business units, each team member should serve as a strategic advisor to “internal clients” to identify how the team can support their requests for the most desirable outcome.
  • Resources. Does the function have the budget, headcount and resources it needs to execute its programs efficiently and meet the targeted goals? As the annual planning process is underway, communications leaders should identify any gaps in their budget, staff and resources that may prevent them from meeting the function’s key initiatives and goals. If gaps exist, programs and goals should be adjusted accordingly.
  • Insource vs. outsource. The communications team needs to identify the roles an agency can play in supporting the function’s programs and effectiveness. The use of agencies does not replace the need for internal headcount, but it can help support internal teams’ efforts to deliver strategic and less strategic programs. An agency is only as successful as the team members dedicated to managing it, who should ensure the agency has the feedback and resources required to perform the work.
  • Process. Creating and maintaining strict processes for supporting the organization’s communications needs will help the function become more agile and empower team members and agencies to work more efficiently and effectively on all the tasks that come their way.

When business priorities shift, communications leaders should seize the opportunity to review their own organization’s structure for ways to increase productivity, collaboration and agility. Although communications professionals are accustomed to wearing many hats in any given day, they appreciate any strategies that boost efficiency and effectiveness in tackling their organization’s objectives.

Laura Sudnik

Laura Sudnik is a research analyst for SiriusDecisions’ Strategic Communications Management service. She has 18 years of corporate communications experience and has spent her career helping b-to-b organizations build their public relations, IT analyst relations and social media programs. Follow Laura on Twitter @LauraSudnik.

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