Succession planning in a ‘nation of wastrels’

Posted on: 2013-05-11 in Opinion   |   Tagged: aimee postle industry watch

Aimee Postle (@AimeePostle) argues that communications professionals should be involved in succession planning from the outset – rather than being left to communicate the outcome after the fact.

Aimee PostleYou could say that this week has seen the ultimate in talent management and succession planning.

Not only do we have the initial throes of The Apprentice – a show which sees its ninth cohort of business men and women pitch themselves as worthy of magnate Sir Alan Sugar’s notice. We’ve also witnessed the retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson, master of Manchester United for almost three decades, and the exit of CEO Paul Walsh from drinks brand Diageo.

All have garnered headlines, Sir Alex has taken Twitter by storm (more tweets on his retirement than Margaret Thatcher’s death a few weeks earlier) and the nation’s eyes will be glued to the media watching for successors to win or fail when they are thrust into the limelight.

Of course, this week has also seen the annual Queen’s Speech and the official opening of Parliament. The speech itself seems to have generated less coverage than Fergie’s retirement but, with the announcement that the Queen will miss the Commonwealth meeting of the heads of state later this year; questions are mounting in earnest as to royal succession planning.

With the recent Dutch abdication and passage of the throne from mother to son, there is precedent for a passing of the torch here in the UK, if the royal family so chooses.      

However, regardless of politics, monarchy, business or sport, there is a strong argument to make that communications professionals should be involved in succession planning from the outset – rather than the typical scenario of being left to communicate the outcome after the fact.

The likes of iconic mega-brand Apple and even the Roman Catholic Papacy have suffered in recent years because of a vacuum of information coming from the right people at the right time. And, further back, both Starbucks and Dell computers have had financial challenges and power struggles when the market has not accepted a change in leader at the helm.

Even if decisions are made by HR gurus and financial investors hidden away in darkened rooms, the increasingly immediate and viral nature of communications in the modern world means that not only does everyone have an opinion, they also have a route to air it. This makes it more important than ever that PR professionals have a seat at the table – not only in determining how to communicate change but also how that change should be managed, internally and externally.

After all, the business of communications professionals is reputation and the reputation of an organisation is founded firmly on the performance and personalities of its leaders. Even a little sports club can experience financial loss when its head honcho steps down, as evidenced by an almost immediate five per cent fall in share price for Manchester United just 10 minutes after the announcement to the New York Stock Exchange of Ferguson’s retirement.    

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Aimee Postle (@AimeePostle) is a dual-qualified PR and marketing account director at Warwick-based automotive and cleantech specialist agency Prova PR.

UK Agency Awards Winner 2016

About this blog


The B2B PR Blog is a resource for both PR professionals and people working in B2B industries on how to devise and implement successful B2B PR campaigns. The blog is managed by B2B PR specialist Heather Baker, founder TopLine Comms, an inbound marketingB2B content marketing agency and proud HubSpot partner agency and takes contribution from anyone sensible in the industry with something intelligent to say.  Follow Heather on Twitter @TopLineFounder or contact the B2B PR Blog editorial team via email on [email protected].


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