Business partnering - more than a job title

Pixabay (Creative Commons)
Pixabay (Creative Commons)

There is a powerful business case for the business partner model. When working at its best it integrates the PR and/or internal communication function into the business enabling the aligning of communication with business goals.

The business partner model originated in HR, driven by a need to modernise the function, make it more strategic and exploit the opportunities that resulted from new technologies such as ERPs (Enterprise Resource Planning) systems such as Oracle. These took the transactional work out of HR, giving employees the facility to do things like update their information, apply for leave etc. themselves, online.

The communication function has never had quite the same drivers.

I’ve been exploring the potential of the business partner model for PR and communication in our latest PR Place guide.

As in the world of HR, the implementation of the business partner model has had mixed results. A quick, non-scientific, review of published job descriptions for communication business partner roles helps to reveal part of the reason. There is little consistency and many roles require both strategic input and tactical delivery.

It can be a rewarding role for the holder and the business, positioning the communicator as a trusted adviser and valuable member of a senior management team.

However, as in the world of HR where the model originated, it isn’t always as successful as anticipated.

A quick, non-scientific, review of published job descriptions for communication business partner roles helps to reveal part of the reason. There is little consistency and many roles require both strategic input and tactical delivery.

In addition, not all practitioners will relish working as a business partner and organisations need to be mindful of this when implementing the model. This doesn’t mean it’s a case of “strategic good, tactical bad”.

In fact, as I explain in the guide, the business partner model relies on excellent tactical delivery at every level of the model. It is something that I emphasise when I run PR Academy’s CIPR Specialist Certificate in Internal Communication; while we teach internal communication to be more strategic, no senior management team is going to take communication seriously at the strategic level if we can’t produce good collateral, written copy or manage an effective intranet. So those who excel at tactical delivery are an equally crucial part of the business partner model.

The reason behind writing this guide was to emphasise that business partnering is a model and much more than a job title.

Download the PR Place Guide to business partnering

(Free to PR Place members - simply login or create a free account to download the guide)

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About the author

Ann Pilkington

Ann is a co-founder of PR Academy, a leading provider of public relations and communication education.  Her special areas of interest are internal communication and project communication.

Ann leads PR Academy’s CIPR internal comms certificate.


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