PR Training

How Can The Organization Change If The Conversation Doesn’t?

In our last post, my PRSA 2008 International Conference session co-presenter, Tony D’Angelo, posited that most change initiatives fail for a variety of reasons.  As Tony stated, the seeds of failure are actually planted very early in the process and then take root when the communications, management practices, strategy, and leadership direction fail to produce something new or different.  Certainly a challenging balancing act to say the least, but the real telltale sign that a change management program will either succeed or fail actually rests with the counsel and approach communications professionals provide at the outset.

From the beginning, communicators need to address three operating principles in order to begin organizing thinking, rationalizing roles, and respecting the fluidity of any change effort.

  1. Where is the organization now?
    Comprehending the current state – both from a business/competitive standpoint and also from a people standpoint – provides a baseline for entering any change initiative
  2. Where does the organization want to go?
    Articulating the “ideal” state from a performance, customer satisfaction, and reputational perspective begins to shape the goals and measures necessary to guide decisions, actions, and communications.
  3. Where can the organization go?
    Often the missing link in a change management initiative, this important insight can be derived from understanding the factors associated with how and why people and organizations ultimately shift or move to a new place.     

As communications professionals, if we have learned anything over the last 15 years about transformational change it’s this:  “Are we ready to change ourselves?”

So, how ready are you?

Gary Grates, president, Edelman Change, was most recently General Motors’ senior corporate communications executive for North America and global leader of internal communications, brings more than 20 years of marketing and corporate communications experience. In July 2006, he assumed the role of Senior Advisor for Strategic Communications Policy at General Motors. Prior to joining GM, Mr. Grates was chairman and president of GCI BoxenbaumGrates, a strategic communications consultancy specializing in change management and internal communications, and a unit of GCI Group, Grey Advertising’s public relations unit. He has published more than 100 articles and white papers on the strategic importance of communications in achieving business goals. During his career, Mr. Grates has counseled a number of national, multi-national and global organizations including: Caterpillar, Shell, Carrier, Novartis, Mobil, Visa International, British Airways, BellSouth, Coca-Cola, The McGraw-Hill Companies, Kerr-McGee, and Dell.

Join Grates along with Anthony D’Angelo for their co-presentation Success at Change Management: The Importance of a Well-Designed Client/Agency Relationship at the PRSA 2008 International Conference: The Point of Connection on Tuesday, October 28 in Detroit Michigan!

About the author

Gary Grates


  • Gary and Tony…
    Your conference workshop will benefit any practitioner who is involved in organizational communications. Like both of you, most of my 30-year PR career has been corporate and internal facing. Recently, I was in a strategic planning preparation meeting around this very topic — organizational culture change. I heard a startling statistic about the rate of change; perhaps you have as well? Most Fortune 500 companies today are likely to experience four changes per year, in contrast to 10 years ago, when the rate of change was once every five years. At this currently stated velocity, change cannot be a program – it is an organizational requirement. Change is interwoven with every strategic decision. The PR practitioner’s role is to cause conversations that enable all levels of leadership to be clear and consistent when discussing what and why things will be, or are different; and their role is to then help leaders engage with stakeholders by asking, “how do we…..change?” See you in Detroit!

  • Elizabeth,

    Thank you. Your observations are incisive – change has moved from a periodic event to an organizational requirement, and an ongoing leadership philosophy. Hope you will lend your insights to our session. Gary and I are looking to create a very interactive format.

    Tony D.

Leave a Comment