The role and relative importance of corporate communications can vary widely across different companies. While all businesses turn their attention to PR at certain times, that attention ebbs and flows, and communications are usually considered a complementary business function rather than an integral part of strategy that can help drive performance. That’s why recent developments at American Apparel have been noted by the PR world.
Last week, following the ouster of company founder Dov Charney from the CEO office, American Apparel named Allan Mayer as the company’s new co-chair. Why is this interesting? Because Mr. Mayer heads the strategic communications division of entertainment PR firm 42West.
Historically, communications has not been where investors, boards or senior managers look for corporate leadership. Chief Marketing Officers who have P&L tied directly to their job do make it to the top seat, but rarely are the folks who direct how an organization connects with all of its audiences, anointed to head the business.
While Mayer had been an independent board member for years, elevating him to co-chair shows the company recognizes the strategic value of communications and the specific need at American Apparel. For an organization that has been plagued by negative press over controversial advertising and questionable behavior of its founder, embedding communications into board oversight is not just the right move; it is a critical one for the company’s future.
Hopefully, this is a small indication that true understanding of the value of communications is growing at the most senior level. It doesn’t necessarily mean every board of directors needs a PR pro to lead it, but smart organizations will see why this move was made, and re-consider whether they are leveraging communications as the valuable business function it is.
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