A new research project conducted by RelationsPeople in collaboration with the University of Copenhagen, looks at executive communication and advising.
In connection with the research, we spoke with Mads Twomey-Madsen, vice president corporate communications and sustainability at PANDORA about his many years working as an advisor in the field of executive communication.
What is executive communication?
It’s about identifying the agenda that the executive needs to be pushing forward – and thereby the agenda that I need to help the executive push forward. There are many different aims. Externally, it may be a matter of promoting the business conditions for the company by creating some visibility or political support. Internally, it could be an attempt to generate momentum or progress in the organisation towards realising the company’s strategy – and often an attempt to kindle excitement among employees. In general, it typically summarises a communication agenda that is constantly evolving. It is important, because communication is one of the most important aspects of the work of an executive.
What does your work as an executive advisor involve, practically speaking?
Much of my work is written. It must be written, because it has to be something that can be repeated and reused and refined. So we work a lot on formulating “What do we think?” or “What do we say?” That’s the concrete starting point for a lot of conversations and processes where, working together, we refine and make the communication clearer and clearer. Once we figure out what we want to say, then we have to also work on being able to say it. It’s easier to write something down on a piece of paper when you have plenty of time than it is to say it to journalists or employees.
What is the core of your work as an advisor?
The core is finding a good and sharp message – a message that is thoroughly crafted. That is still the thing that we spend a lot – a lot – of time on. Meanwhile, I’ve also seen a growing focus on: “We have to make it interesting. It has to be presented in an exciting way. The agenda must be varied. It can’t be the same all the time.” That focus is very strong, and sometimes it can take over a little too much. But the core is still the process of developing the message.
What are the key challenges?
Staying on top of things. Everything is happening so incredibly fast sometimes. So you may suddenly discover that you’re not paying attention to what’s important or you’re not being invited along for the ride. That’s why I spend a lot of time figuring out: Where is the management? Where are their interests? What do they need? And then understanding and decoding all of this. In practice, this means that I make sure to be relatively well-versed in what’s going on in the company.
What does it take to be a effective advisor?
You have to be able to think conceptually. You have to be very business-oriented and strategic. And you have to enjoy doing the work – the craft. In other words, the ultimate cornerstone of the communications advisor craft: Being able to write sharply – and quickly. That may sound old-fashioned, but it’s still the case in a world of social media and global communication. Because once we have the message, then we can think about: How do we deliver it? Or how do we articulate it? Or which channel should be transmitted through? If you can’t get to the heart of the message, then I think it’s very, very difficult to become an advisor to executives.