Too many communications professionals profess a fear of numbers, which is damaging not only to your reputation as a professional but perhaps also to your brand. If you aspire to advance in your career, want to have more influence on the management team or volunteer for a non-profit board, you need to understand the story the financials are telling.

Financial literacy is important for all communicators. As a general rule, communicators should know what financial information is readily available, and how to retrieve that information. Part of financial literacy for communicators is also being able to prepare for the questions that will be asked regarding financial statements and knowing what is available for public consumption. Financial statements can help tell a story, but you must have a clear understanding of what the numbers are saying.

Knowing the story that your financial statements tell also is important to help shape the narrative of any organization, and communicators do not need an advanced degree in accounting to understand the basics.

Conversations with an organization’s leadership can help provide an understanding of what the numbers mean, so go ahead and seek out the CFO and/or COO to learn more.

Colleagues can also provide great insight into financial literacy. It is important to share your story with other public relations practitioners and to learn from them. Ask, how has knowledge of financial statements been able to shape the story of your employer? How have numbers helped form a narrative for you?

Financial literacy is not only important in a professional setting, but can also be helpful for communicators in volunteer positions. Non-profit boards of directors are often looking for creative ways to tell their story and this can be done by using the organization’s financial statements. They often solicit the help of bankers and other financial professionals, but they also appreciate having a communications professional’s insight in how to share that story. Being able to understand how to be a good communicator of a financial story is priceless. 

A little knowledge can go a long way when it comes to financial literacy and shaping an organization’s story. The more you work with financial statements, the more comfortable you will become, and the easier it will be to tell exciting tales of an organization’s successes as well a shape the narrative around a possible public relations crisis.

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Register for PRSA's new Intersections Conference, which features three distinct Learning Tracks with programming specifically tailored for the needs of technology, financial, entertainment and sports communicators. Attendees will select their Learning Track during the registration process, and will join a series of breakout sessions curated by leaders in each industry.