Thought Leadership

Why Communicators Need to Be Part of the Decision-Making Process

You know that feeling when you find out something your organization or client is doing, but it’s too late to take full advantage of it from a PR perspective? I hate it when that happens, so I’m sharing an inspiring example to help you avoid it.

A communicator needs to be in the room whenever the organization is deciding when and how to pull the trigger on a new development. Sometimes to be the voice of reason and explain how it might backfire; other times to advise on how to leverage the new venture with key stakeholders.

That’s what happened this last summer during an internal meeting at Duolingo, the company behind the No. 1 language-learning platform in the world.

Senior PR Manager Michaela Kron was meeting with colleagues who were discussing which new languages to add to the app. Among those they were considering were Navajo and Hawaiian.

Michaela recalls: “I just threw out the idea of how cool it would be to launch them on Indigenous Peoples’ Day.” The team agreed, and all worked to have the courses complete and ready to launch on that day, which was Oct. 8.  

The strategy was a success. The time element Michaela conjured dramatically enhanced the newsworthiness of the announcement, and better still, gave journalists a deadline by which they’d need to cover it for greatest effect. That’s the best way to motivate them to take action.

The announcement earned coverage in TIME, ABC, NBC, Fast CompanyTravel+Leisure, and lots more.

For this to work, Michaela needed two things:

  • A knowledge of contemporary culture and the media agenda. That’s why she’d recognized the growing movement to “rebrand” Columbus Day as Indigenous Peoples’ Day, and how media sought coverage tied to “new” or different holidays. That was her responsibility as a PR pro, and she was all over it.
  • Early access in the development of the new initiative to be able to influence its completion date. Now, contrary to what you might think, that was ALSO her responsibility, not the responsibility of anyone else in the company. And she met that standard for success, too.

If you or your colleagues keep finding out about stuff too late, then that’s your opportunity to insert yourself earlier into the discussions. Demonstrate how you can add value to the process — you’re not there to nitpick or naysay, but boost the impact of the idea that your colleagues are cultivating.  

Frustrated because you’ve tried and keep getting shut out? Use this example to rekindle the conversation about looping you in to new initiatives. Once you get your own success story, run that up the chain so executives can spread the word that communicators need to be in the room.


Michael Smart teaches PR professionals how to dramatically increase their positive media placements. He’s engaged regularly by organizations like General Motors, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and Georgia Tech to help their media relations teams reach new levels of success. Get more media pitching knowledge from Michael Smart here.

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