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College of Information and Communications


PR Prose: Values managers and leadership

Posted March 6, 2019 
By Dr. Shannon Bowen, professor in the public relations sequence
Reprinted with permission from PRWeek


You may not know the term values manager, but you should. It could help advance your efficacy, increase your responsibility level, and further the role of the public relations function in your organization.

In a worldwide study of PR pros, colleagues and I identified a new role communicators were regularly engaging in. After using factor analysis to examine an enormous sample we realized the term "values manager" best fit the internal focus of this ethical job.

Values managers work internally, using internal comms and leadership, as well as their influence throughout the organization, to instill core ethical values and foster a culture that benefits an organization.

As values managers, PR pros influence not only the comms functions but also the ethics, day-to-day operations, work-life balance, satisfaction, motivation, and engagement in employees throughout a firm.

Values managers are sometimes called "culture czars" or "chief engagement officers" or some other trendy moniker. But whatever the name, the importance of having a values manager can’t be overstated because it can provide a true competitive advantage for the enterprise.

To up your values manager knowledge, abilities, and skills, here are a few things you should consider:

How trustworthy are your internal communications? Do you have a two-way feedback loop that honestly instills dialogue, and invites questions and comments? Are the questions and comments followed up upon, considered, and used in decision–making and planning?

Do your communications talk about ethics? Do you continue to discuss values even after employees are on-boarded and training is complete? Are the values kept alive and current in your organization?

How well-developed are your interpersonal internal comms pipelines? Do you seek information and give information? Can your network be used as an informal resource for qualitative data collection in order to understand issues and challenges throughout the organization?

Avoid using the network as a personal grapevine because being an information resource is a legitimate, credible, and valuable role. Focus on gathering and providing information from numerous perspectives that can be used in ethical problem-solving, understanding the values and views of others, in guiding strategic management, and offering conflict resolution.

Be empathetic. Work to understand the perspectives of others throughout the organization. The more I conduct research on the ethics of leadership, the more I’m convinced empathy is a crucial but highly undervalued part of values management and leadership.

In a 2009 study, I found that by facilitating communication in the organization PR pros gained credibility and created a leadership role that eventually led them to the highest job: Advising the CEO.

Juan Meng and Bruce Berger made a similar argument when they wrote, "Excellent leadership in public relations . . . consistently produces ethical and effective communication practice. Such practice fuels and guides successful communication teams, helps organizations achieve their goals, and legitimizes organizations in society."

Leadership is not found just within the comm function and C–suite, but throughout and across the enterprise with multiple other organizational functions. "Work horizontally across the organization," advised Timothy Penning and Mark Bain.

Our field is growing in importance — through the role of internal communication — by creating successful cultures and instilling core ethical values throughout those cultures. The values manager role is central to our credibility, relationship management acumen, and ability to impact organizational success.