Why boards need marketing and communications expertise

June 24, 2021

Diana Conconi

Traditionally, Corporate and Not-For-Profit Boards have sought directors with accounting and legal skills and expertise. These skillsets have been and continue to be foundational for good governance.

Accountants comb through spreadsheets and financials to ensure that the organizations they govern have spent wisely and can remain solvent. This provides solid hindsight.

Lawyers review the bylaws and regulations that govern the operation of the organization for compliance. This provides strong oversight.

But if the pandemic has taught us anything, it is the value of foresight. This is where marketers and communications professionals excel.

According to Chris Brockbank, Chief Commercial Officer, FIRMA and active Board Member, “Covid was a collision waiting to happen. It exposed an important strategic gap on many Boards – that of reputation and risk.” He adds, “As a result, Boards are increasingly recognizing their role in owning the brand and reputation of the organizations they oversee.”

Many Boards now find themselves guiding organizational transformations in the wake of business recovery planning. With a duty of care to all stakeholders, strategy and culture have become equally paramount – elevating the need for strategic board skills.

Having trained marketing professionals as Board members ensures that strategic planning considers multiple scenarios and provides holistic perspectives. Those with digital and social media skills are especially relevant as new technologies, smart phone apps and social media continue to change the way business is done and how the general public interacts with brands.

Directors with professional communications skills understand consistent messaging and stakeholder alignment. They also provide invaluable crisis communications counsel. Understanding how to cultivate media relationships and navigate inquiries, soothe anxious investors or connect with external stakeholders to influence and shape a crucial narrative can establish, sustain and grow a brand’s reputation.

As marketers and communications experts gear up to work on Boards, experience and training in financial and strategic leadership will still be advantageous. Ultimately, success on a Board, especially as diversity and inclusion – including diversity of experience and thought – becomes more ingrained, will be defined by the ability to give wise, trusted and in-demand counsel.

*Chris Brockbank, CM and I serve as co-chairs of the Brand Strategy Council of the Canadian Marketing Association.

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