SINGAPORE — While the perceived value of comms is up among executives, it is still critical that communicators rally C-suite support to solidify the function’s stature in the boardroom, according to a panel of industry leaders 

“It’s super important to get advocates in your organization to make sure they understand the value of comms and what we bring to the table,” Luanne Da Costa, Cloudflare’s Asia Pacific director of public relations, said. “One of the things we need to improve upon is highlighting our success.”

“We are expected to deliver, and we always deliver,” she said.

Da Costa’s remarks were part of a Ruder Finn-sponsored panel discussion on communications in the boardroom Wednesday at PRovoke Media’s Asia-Pacific Summit in Singapore. Participants also included Elan Shou, Ruder Finn Asia executive VP and managing director; Erin Atan, Heineken’s APAC regional corporate affairs director; and Jessica Lee, HSBC’s managing director/regional head of communications. PRovoke Media CEO Arun Sudhaman moderated the discussion.

The conversation covered the gamut of issues communicators, despite recent gains, continue to face in demonstrating and cementing their value among corporate leaders — helping executives understand the breadth and importance of their roles, measuring (and celebrating) successes and distinguishing communications from marketing among them.

“It’s about steering environmental changes, steering political changes and steering cultural changes,” Lee said. “It’s not somewhat valuable. It’s very, very extremely valuable.”

Atan said that executives often see the value of comms in times of crises. “In volatile times, comms is the savior of the day,” she said. 

Yet, for the function to gain full acceptance, it is key that C-suite leaders also understand the ongoing role communicators play that includes making strategic business decisions that have implications for a company’s reputation — moves like Heineken’s decision to pull out of Russia following its invasion of Ukraine.

“We couldn’t have done it without comms at the table looking at every possible angle and analyzing the decision itself and how it affects society globally,” Atan said.

Panelists reinforced the importance of measuring success of communications as a means of proving value while acknowledging that doing so is difficult given that there are not concrete ways to measuring feats like protecting a company’s reputation.

“There’s really not a celebration of comms wins,” Da Costa said.

In addition, Shou said it’s important to distinguish comms from marketing, particularly when measuring successes, as you can’t compare communications long-term approach to protecting a company to marketing’s moves to drive business results more quickly.

“If you put two teams in front of me, I can immediately tell you which team is the marketing team which is the comms team. They are different by nature,” Shou said.

At the same time, companies are more apt to invest in measuring the success of marketing because results are more quantitative than the qualitative results of comms — though the importance of the latter is often not realized until companies find themselves in precarious positions.

“In good times you take reputation for granted,” Shou said. “Then suddenly you realize that reputation is something you can’t take for granted. You have to spend money to protect it.”