One place I like to check in periodically is PR Conversations, a site that delves deeper into public relations topics than most websites and works hard to ensure that it represents PR professionals around the globe.
In a recently posted PRoust Questionnaire interview with Fraser Likely, one of the PR profession’s esteemed thinkers, I was struck by his answer to this question: “What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery in PR?”
“I feel for practitioners who enjoy their craft, specialty and creativeness and who love producing ‘product.’ Yet, when push comes to shove in PR departments and/or organizations, often they find what they produce and have crafted for years is regarded as just another commodity that can be discarded. It’s absolute misery to discover your product is not indispensable to the organization.”
What’s That You Say? I’m Not Indispensable?
Fraser’s comment here should cause every PR and marketing practitioner as well as every employee and/or business owner to pause and think about his or her own situation. Other than if you are the ONLY person in the world to offer a particular service or product, you are not indispensable. Usually the loss of a single person in an organization – even if that person is you – rarely causes more than a temporary ripple.
Think about your own experiences. Did you ever work for a business where the CEO or another top executive suddenly died or resigned without warning? Was a long-time team member recruited by a competitor and had his or her computer/office access locked up tight without an opportunity to wrap up or explain ongoing projects? Has someone you considered critical to the organization get a pink slip because of downsizing?
I’m betting that once the water cooler what-the-hell-are-we-going-to-do conversations died down, life went on. Others stepped up to fill the void, folks took on new responsibilities and the organization did just fine (and maybe even better).
The Key to Semi-Indispensability
Sure, understanding how to use InDesign to put together a newsletter or e-book, having the ability to write a coherent white paper or press release, or being able to develop website usage reports are excellent skills. Unfortunately, as Fraser explains, they are commodity skills.
Don’t believe me? Look at the pitiful fees that businesses offer to pay for the professional work of writers, designers, marketers and others via online freelancer job sites (i.e., Elance, Guru.com, oDesk). We’re talking professionals whose skills are commoditized to the max.
Although NOBODY is truly indispensable (though I’m holding out to see what happens to Apple in the long run without Steven Jobs), we do have one way in which we can up our chances of success and staying power. The key, as described by Fraser, is to develop an ability to contribute expertise at the strategic level. In other words, you want to be able to intelligently add to the conversation when it’s time to figure out how to get from where an organization is today to where it wants to be next week and next year and five years down the road.
Develop Your Indispensability Arsenal
Gaining the ability to think strategically doesn’t happen by magic. It takes extra work. At the same time, you certainly cannot ignore ongoing work responsibilities. Getting fired for not doing your job because you want to be a strategic asset is downright dumb.
If you are ready to begin the transition from doer to strategic thinker, it’s time to add the following to your must-do list:
- Educate: Continually expand your industry knowledge beyond the walls of your department and professional discipline. Understanding all the forces that impact your organization – from government regulations, political and cultural trends, and trade industry stances to competitors’ activities and technology innovations – gives you a better ability to see the big picture.
- Evaluate: Use this gained knowledge to assess what you do in relation to the overall goals of your department, organization and industry. You can then be on constant lookout for concrete ways to use this information to help your organization meet and surpass its overall strategic goals.
- Communicate: Don’t be afraid to share your insights with those who stand on the ladder rungs above you. In time, perceptions that others have of you will eventually evolve from easily replaceable worker bee who completes assignments as requested to valuable organizational insider who understands how to move the organization forward.
Think on, my friends.
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Photo courtesy of www.sxc.hu.