Managing Up: A PR Strategy for Connecting with The Boss

By: Kathleen Taylor, APR

Designing a message around a particular audience is what makes the difference between bland words on a page and a personal letter that elicits action. The ability to key in on what makes an audience tick is a skill that public relations pros can put to valuable use for themselves as well as their companies.

It’s called managing up. With a clear understanding of your how your boss, project manager, client or executive prefers to work and receive information, we can discern ways that we can adapt and build working relationships that benefit our managers, the company or project, and ourselves.

Reaching different audiences effectively requires understanding what they need and what tool best delivers the message to that audience. If someone is a new club member, we may assign a long-time member mentor to befriend them. To limit rumors and reduce panic in a crisis, we may decide to send regular updates to the media in order to keep people informed.

Selecting the right communication strategy with your boss is very similar. For example, say your boss needs to deliver detailed updates up the chain of command about current programs you manage, and they prefer to digest information in writing before needing to discuss it. It’s a good idea to provide the information your boss needs at regular intervals by email. Casually mentioning that the project’s going great as he’s heading to a lunch meeting with his boss does not meet his need. It also will not promote a strong and trusting relationship between the two of you.

Developing a trusting relationship with your boss or client could help you earn an account or gain support for an important communications program or new customer strategy. Learning and attending to your boss’s needs, and being open about your needs as well, helps reduce misunderstandings. Plus, the day feels less stressful when everyone gets along.

Success in this communication strategy depends on having an existing healthy relationship, so pay attention in your interactions now. What are your boss’s preferences, leadership styles, time constraints and priorities? What are their weaknesses? Take note of ways you can adjust your communication and management style in ways that help others feel confident and more prepared. Consider what makes them tick, and be one step closer to hearing “yes” to that new project you’re pitching. Manage up!