Last week, PR and comms executives representing many of Boston’s leading sectors – from pharma to finance – gathered in Back Bay for the first of Signal AI’s Boston Exec Connect gatherings. With remarks from Ernesto (Ernie) Anguilla, head of communications and public affairs at Bain Capital, the discussion explored many of the major topics and trends on practitioners’ minds, including:
To open the roundtable, Bain Capital’s Ernie Anguilla shared an adage from a mentor that has guided his work over many years. “Comms is all about getting from A to B,” Anguilla’s mentor told him. In other words, a communicator’s fundamental job is to shift people’s perspective, from one place to another. The frame can help simplify seemingly complex challenges practitioners face every day, from crisis communications to branding decisions. Organisations should ask themselves, “Where are we now and where do we want to go? How do we get there? And what are the risks of action or inaction?” As Anguilla noted, these questions can help frame effective cross-functional collaboration, particularly when the stakes (and emotions) run high.
Participants agreed that reputation is an asset, just like everything else under a company’s purview. The banking sector’s recent crisis-of-confidence – leading to SVB’s dramatic collapse, JPMorgan’s takeover of First Republic, and more – underscores the importance of reputation and perception to the bottom line. For instance, it was arguably SVB executives’ communications – and the ensuing perception of instability within the bank – that sparked the widespread crisis. As SVB learned the hard way, and all organizations understand at one point or another, companies must define their own narratives, particularly in the face of countervailing headwinds. Otherwise, the markets will define them for you.
Participants also shared perspectives on the trends facing return-to-work and discussed the benefits and drawbacks of many of the plans swirling within various industries, from fully remote to fully on-site, hybrid and other options in between. One resonant theme is the ongoing importance of mentorship and sponsorship. How can organizations offer on-site face time, particularly for early-career or newer hires? Companies may want to take a page from the likes of Airbnb and EzCater and invite employees on-site for team-building, socializing and strategy summits, rather than (or in addition to) requiring in-person office time for day-to-day work.
Across these topics and more, practitioners recognized the challenges of communications in today’s interconnected world – and how relevant overarching market and reputation trends have become to the questions they face every day.