How Communication Directors can develop partnerships with the business

How to build on this organizational knowledge to give advice and counsel to senior executives, as a peer

Notes from round-table discussions held at the Communication Directors’ Forum (Part 2), 8-10 October 2014, Aurora.


The group discussions concluded true business partners seem to have three main sets of skills:

  • 1. Technical: they know their field and know that is how they add value. This is the professional core and why people typically get hired. It is also where the highest proportion of training budgets get allocated.
  • 2. Business: they know their client’s business and the environment in which they operate.
  • 3. Consulting / advisory: they are able to deliver that knowledge in a way that creates value.

We know from the group discussions that many people who aspire to be business partners are strong on the first and not the other two.

Maybe a lot of the money spent on technical training isn’t able to be turned into business benefit because it is not balanced with sufficient investment in the other two areas. Indeed, it was an almost universal theme: most participants had received technical and skills training, a few had sought to improve their business know-how, but almost no one had received training in consulting and advisory skills. In my personal opinion, there is little value in becoming an expert if you don’t have the skills to translate that into successful outputs, working with others.

Business skills – are important because they demonstrate that you as the adviser isn’t just interested in the technical solution, you are interested in the world of the business leader. Showing you understand the operational environment, the other’s world, an alternative perspective, is key to developing partnerships. By doing this, value can be created through mutual understanding.

Consulting skills help you translate expertise into results. They are about managing the conversation, responding in the right way, developing trust, building relationships, and delivering in promises. The groups discussed how as experts in communication, it is hard for internal customers to judge the quality of our work. They can only judge the result, how you work with them, or the quality of the service. So from a senior leader perspective, their satisfaction level, and their perception of the value you can bring, is primarily determined by how you conduct yourself, and secondarily on the technical excellence of your output.

So while technical expertise is important – after all it is the reason you are in the room – you’ll find it much easier to be invited back if you can demonstrate business understanding, and robust consulting skills to make the bridge between your skills and your client’s challenges.

Key consulting skills that make an impact:

  • Building relationships
  • Developing trust
  • Re-framing issues
  • Influencing skills


Stephen WelchThese discussions were held under the Chatham House Rule which states that participants are free to use the information, but that neither the identification of the speaker, nor that of any other participant may be revealed.

Stephen Welch, MCIPR CMRS FRSA, Past-President of IABC UK has participated in the round-table discussions and produced the notes above.


Twitter: @stephenwelch11

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