What is Strategic Communications Consulting?

Written by Lindsay Schroeder Treichel, senior consultant and chief transformation officer; connect with her on LinkedIn

For years, I’ve struggled to answer the simple question: “What do you do for a living?”

On the surface, it seems like an easy enough question to answer. I’ve worked at Tunheim for nearly 15 years. I should certainly know by now what we do. But, depending on the day, my answers range: management consulting, communications and public relations, public affairs, crisis consulting … and that’s just the start of what we do.

When I started on my career path, the field I entered was called public relations or “PR” and my aspirations were clear.

The goal of PR, at its core, has always been about creating two-way communication between an organization and its most important stakeholders.

While pursuing my degree, I’d learned that clients wanted to hire professionals who could help them identify stakeholders and articulate a message that they controlled (as much as possible anyway), determine the most effective vehicles to reach said stakeholders, and share those messages according to a prescribed timeline.

And I was, I knew, just the newly-minted professional to help them get the job done.

In those days, organizations often measured the value of their “relationships” through consumer impressions, ad equivalency numbers and whatever the chief marketing officer or corporate communications director valued that day, week or month.

The problem is, those measurement criteria couldn’t actually measure what PR was designed to do — they were just numbers on a page.

Literally, public relations is intended to impact the relations an organization has with key stakeholders, and we’re all still working to find effective ways to measure engagement or impact. Measuring reach alone is easy, but not very useful — and for public relations professionals, that metric created a whole phenomenon labeled “spin” — the notion that any and all publicity is good.

How “PR” evolved into strategic communications consulting

At Tunheim we’ve never been about “spin” and, skeptics be damned, we’re not shy about saying that upfront. After all, what’s the point?

It doesn’t help organizations engage with their audiences, strengthen their businesses and move the needle in ways that are truly valuable. We see ourselves as strategic consultants, with core competencies across the communications spectrum.

As strategic communications consultants, we’ve always known it’s not about controlling the message, the medium or the timeline. All truly good strategic communications consultants worth their weight in old news releases know that. It is, and always has been, about meeting your most important stakeholders on their turf, on their timeline and in a way that’s meaningful to them — and that means very different things to each of our clients.

Truth be told, at Tunheim, what we do is help organizations take responsibility for being understood and that has never solely been our own “PR” talking.

Over the years, our work has helped clients build strategic business plans, navigate crises, identify and mine new opportunities for growth, realign social infrastructure, build and manage coalitions, develop departments, and secure national events like the NCAA Final Four, Super Bowl and Ryder Cup – and so much more.

At our core, we’re business consultants who intimately understand the art of communication and its importance in strategically helping our clients assess, manage and navigate complex business problems and capitalize on new opportunities; ultimately, helping them to be understood by their most important stakeholders in a way that truly matters to them.

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