Do Australian CIOs Need to Think About Public Relations?

By Peter Wilson

The current tenure of CIOs in Australia and New Zealand averages 3.8 years, according to a new Gartner survey. That’s compared to a global average of 4.6 years. Why are CIOs in Australia and New Zealand stepping aside or getting shown the door faster than CIOs in other countries?

Perhaps CIO turnover is high in part because CIOs don’t spend enough time communicating their successes to their organisations. They are at the pulse of the enterprise, yet boasting about their wins doesn’t always come easily. And as we all know, you often have to remind executives and other departments at your business what you’re doing to get the proper recognition for your role. Part of the CIO’s time should be spent packaging up the good works done by the IT department and letting the organisation know what has been accomplished.

This is just the internal public relations – CIOs who want to elevate their profiles and become not just business leaders, but industry influencers as well, should also make their wins known to those outside the organisation, including your business’s customers. If it doesn’t give away any company trade secrets, it’s not a bad idea to get coverage in the media for your IT success stories. Of course, you’ll want to avoid doing this without the consent of your CEO and your in-house marketing team. Making an unauthorised end run to the media might backfire, resulting in a quicker exit than you had hoped for.

How does the IT department set about doing something that doesn’t come naturally? Start small and simple. It could be as easy as creating a list of projects on which the department is working and circulating it around the business. This also helps offset departmental complaints about why you’ve prioritised one business unit’s project over another’s.

If you’re not ready for press releases and newspaper articles, throw your project plans and successes up on the company intranet or circulate a company-wide email (or get the marketing department to do these tasks). It helps create buzz about what the IT department is doing – it also helps if you come up with a fun name for your projects or programmes. Customer testimonials are also essential for not only improving your brand within your organisation, but for getting potential clients to sit up and take notice of your company.

When you are ready to step into the real limelight, prep your entire team first. Get them excited about sharing the good word about their work. Once they have a few talking points, go out to networking and industry events, vendor and client gatherings and trade shows. Share your IT innovations on LinkedIn and other social media sites. Pitch thought leadership positioning stories to IT and technology publications and web sites. Better yet, get to blogging about IT on your own, either through your company’s web site or your personal one.

This isn’t shameless self-promotion; it’s letting the world know about the great things IT is doing and giving full credit to all involved parties. If a firm gains a reputation for using IT strategically to drive business achievements, it increases the valuation of the company and it attracts talented workers. The alternative is to do something incredible and have it go unnoticed and unappreciated. When CIOs do that, they can’t be surprised when they are eventually let go for not having a positive impact on the fortunes of their organisation.

Peter Wilson is Datacom’s CEO of Systems for Australia and Asia. He helps ensure Datacom offers and fulfils technology solutions globally.

Peter strives to drive the success of the business across locations by strategically directing Datacom’s future. His vision ensures every Datacom location is equipped with the world-class knowledge and capabilities necessary to help enterprises transform their IT department.

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