Football, communications and a tribute to Paul Mylrea @MylreaPR

What’s the difference between a top football manager and a communications chief in a large organisation? You are more visible and have more of a Marmite affect if you are a football manager (but comms chiefs notoriously have admirers and detractors), and you might produce more unqualified, uncomplicated joy if your team is successful (but I too have enjoyed professional bliss as a communications director, probably for as long as 10 seconds). But the similiarities outweigh the differences. This is my list of the top six similiarities, and a way of paying tribute to the BBC’s outgoing comms chief (see link to PRWeek below):1. You deliver wholly and solely through your team, and “your team” is not only those you directly line-manage (most of whom are brilliant, and all have potential) but any colleague who communicates through words or body language to a customer or external organisation. Their success is your success. If they are not doing so well, you are judged on how much you are making, or have made a difference. 2. Unlike other professional roles, you cannot easily separate your work from the organisatiion’s reputation. Chief Executives are usually the ones associated most closely with the perceived, as well as real, effectiveness of an organisation. But comms chiefs come a close second for one of two reasons: either the organisation needs to present itself better to the outside world, including where necessary have no, or little, profile, and/or communicate better internally. Football managers come to embody a way of thinking, and playing a game, through their language and other behaviours. Comms chief are, in this sense, equally on show – always on stage, even if they wish they could have a moment’s privacy and a good opprortunity for reflection. One of the qualities I most value in my top team and support team is that they show sensitivity, and do create for me an island of peace, when I need it.3. In this 24/7, digital environment, where reputations can be made, or rather un-made, in a very short space of time, it is the comms chief – and the agreements, systems, processes, people, skills and mind-set they have established- who can play the critical, if not decisive role in ensuring the organisation addresses the emerging challenge or opportunity. Yes, we all know you can take a horse to water, but not make it drink, but you can exercise judgment, discretion and moral responsibility to influence the outcome.4. Your power is influence, influence, influence. Everything else is secondary. Yes, you have formal powers to direct this and that, but your team, immediate and wider team, is best performing when inspired and motivated. The way you frame or re-frame issues, whether you plant ideas, invite questions, stroke egos, tease or critique, gently nudge or give firm directions, all are geared to appealing to the professionalism of those involved, and asking them to take responsibility for more effective communication (if you are a comms chief) or winning that game (if you are a football manager).5. You go through multiple roles, personas, influencing and negotiating styles, often in the space of a short time. Because ultimately you do not matter: you are there to ease the organisation into its next step, and get it equipped to be ready to perform at its best. The naive think people in our roles are (or should be) mainly extrovert, enthusiastic and energetic – the proverbial bouncing ball. But in fact, to get the job done, you need to be a rock, at critical times still, silent and steely, never losing sight of the big goal, not unduly susceptible to being wound up, flattered, criticised, loved or ignored. We are Stoics who have not lost their thirst for life, and take life on the chin.6. You are judged on your last performance, but up to a point. Over time you build your own reputation, and even more important than reputation, is character. People actually prefer football managers and comms chiefs who have gone through a rough patch, and emerged more agile, resilient and that much wiser and more savvy. Do we need a Finance Director to be human? No, but it helps. Do we need our football managers and comms chiefs to be human. Definitely.So, sorry to see you go, Paul, but all the best. You cannot keep a good comms chief, or football manager, down.www.prweek.com/uk/bulletin/prweekukdaily/article/1171046/paul-mylrea-set-leav…

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