Invisible DirComs

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In one of my many meetings with professionals from the Communications world, in which they asked me for some advice because they were thinking about how to advance their professional development, I discovered an issue that I have never stopped thinking about. In various companies, the person responsible for Communications, who is also on the Board of Directors, does not even have the faintest idea about Communications, has never participated in a sector event, is not a member of the Association of Directors of Communications and, of course, has never outlined a communications strategy for their company.

The aforementioned Directors of Communications, the invisible ones, exist in all sectors, and especially in big national companies (many of them working on some of the corporations listed in the prestigious IBEX35 index) and international ones. That is to say, that this bad practice is widespread. Can anyone imagine a director of the legal department who is not a lawyer and has not come up with a defence strategy for a dispute, which might affect the company? Or a director of Human Resources who does not decide the policy for recruitment and for the remuneration packages for the company? Why then is the Communications strategy in the hands of the Department of Corporate and Regulatory matters? Or why is it under the umbrella of marketing as something that is in third or fourth place in terms of importance? Or why does it depend on Human Resources?

The figure that oversees the Department of Communications in these companies, two or three levels below the figure head, in fact is ultimately the authentic Director of Communications, the one who defines the plan of communications and is in charge of its execution, who leads the team, has the vision, and on many occasions, has the powerful personal brand in the sector of Communications. Their salary is far below what is reasonable and their capacity to deal with problems is infinite. Of course, their chances of advancing their professional careers within a company are very narrow because the next step depends, on many occasions, on the complacency, closeness and loyalty you demonstrate to the boss. And we all know that a director of communications often has to say no to the CEO´s ideas.

And it is only getting worse. Some examples: the big oil company that loses its Director of Communications and once it has named the successor, then forbids that person to sit on the Board of Directors. Or the bank that hires a new Director of Communications and tells him he needs to earn his position on the Board of Directors, even though his predecessor had this position. Or the technology firm that has its Director of Communications report to its Director of Human Resources or the laboratory that reports to the sympathetic but ignorant (in terms of Communications) Head of Compliance. Infinite number of stories we hear about every day.

Honestly, is there any remedy for this? Why does the Association of Directors of Communications accept this state of affairs? What actual alternatives remain for the Directors of Communications to face the invisibles? The advice that I am used to giving to these brave professionals is to review their situation at each annual performance evaluation or speak with the Human Resources department about your plan of professional development; that they should demand clarity from their companies and that, if they are not able to do this or have already tried without any success, they should explore other opportunities in the market; that they should leverage their personal brand, making it visible in the network and participating actively in the sector.

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