Today, Tom Buchan – founder of PR firm Buchan Consulting – celebrates 30 years in the business. Here, in this opinion piece he reveals to B&T the hard lessons earned and why what he learned three decades ago still resonates to this very day…
1. The biggest ‘lesson’
Change is your friend. Complacency is your foe. Embrace changes to build a more robust business which accommodates uncertainty and takes advantage of opportunities. The moment you are ‘satisfied’ with your performance, is the point where you stop learning and start contracting. So confront complacency fearlessly.
2. The greatest challenge
From day one, right up until 30 years later, it is building, motivating and retaining ‘talent’. Leadership – and success – in professional services is defined by achieving consistently high standards in providing exemplary services to your clients – from the most complex advice through to everyday tactics. Your people – and their talents, intelligence and integrity – are your only asset.
3. The ‘personality DNA’ of a top consultant in comm
She / he has innate curiosity, a passion for ‘the word’ – written and spoken – a love of issues and current affairs and most importantly, a desire to juggle a multitude of tasks every day!
4. The hardest question from a prospective client
“Show me how your approach will improve by business/ my organisation.” Today, more than ever, leaders are expecting their communication strategies to align precisely with their commercial aims.
5. How have ‘issues’ confronting the communication profession changed?
One of the most important issues facing chief executives and leadership teams today is corporate reputation – building and protecting in a dynamic, and sometimes precarious market. What has changed dramatically in recent years is the speed at which reputations may be attacked, sullied and damaged. Digital disruption is the latest phenomenon confronting businesses, challenging them to respond to threats and opportunities from ‘new’ competition, sometimes not appearing on the corporate radar.
6. The biggest changes
The greatest change in the past five to 10 years is the contraction of the traditional media landscape and the tumultuous rise in ‘new’ communication channels – digital, social and other ‘influences’ on changing community perceptions. Our media focus is on ‘the perpetual now’. But, what hasn’t changed in the past 30 years is the value of the story. The recent preoccupation with ‘content’ is simply a reinforcement of the paramount importance of the story in communication – its clarity and delivery.
7. A challenge for today’s leaders in communication
In the past communication has been seen as a ‘soft discipline’ – as a profession – contrasting with management consulting and financial management with direct and measureable impact on the company’s bottom line. We are now seeing the emergence of the ‘science of communication’, the use of technology to analyse data effectively, showing the impact of communication on commercial outcomes. That puts communication firmly on the CEO’s agenda.
8. Starting my day in 2015, compared with 1985
At the beginning of Buchan, my consulting day started with a good dose of current affairs radio (ABC News and ‘AM), and a swag of national / metro newspapers. Today, I’ve dropped radio from the media menu but still read the Fin Review – cover to cover if possible. I’ll start the day with favourite social media channels, then news aggregators, followed by the national press.
9.The future of ‘PR’ – next 30 years
Who knows? But I’m tipping its ‘status’ as a profession will grow. Its influence on leaders will increase directly in proportion with improving measures of communication ‘output’ and outcomes. The use and integration of technology in all communication programs will capture data effectively and deliver insights and analytics to chief executives and their leadership teams.
10. And, for those entering the profession, some advice?
The advice is the same as it was 30 years ago. Develop quickly and maintain your passion for issues, current affairs, the world, and continuous learning. Read avidly and broadly. And, commit to improving – always – your writing and telling ‘the story’.