Chief Communications Officers (CCOs) at the top of the corporate communications discipline are implementing strategies that aren’t just essential for large, well-staffed corporations… these are essential for the health of all businesses.
Every business can benefit from understanding these strategies — especially in times of change — so they can drive toward those outcomes in size- and maturity-relevant ways.
The prestigious Arthur W. Page Society recently conducted a global survey of CCOs’ current challenges and responsibilities. The Executive Summary and full “The CCO As Pacesetter” report highlight four main workstreams CCOs are undertaking as they help their CEOs drive transformation.
At the risk of oversimplifying, I’ve outlined these four workstreams in terms of questions all CEOs should be asking themselves and their teams.
- Are we engaging with all our stakeholders? CEOs naturally keep an eye on marketing to ensure customers are engaged and positively responsive. But business success requires that all your stakeholders are moving in the same direction as you. You must actively bring along employees, investors, government, neighbors and the public at large. Their experiences with your company need to be “on brand,” authentic and aligned with where you want the company to head.
- Does our culture embody our future vision? As your vision evolves, your culture needs corresponding care. How does it need to “possess new skills, exhibit different behaviors and mindsets and work in different ways?” CCOs collaborate with Human Resources and across the enterprise to provide the “reinforcement, rituals, training, tools and systems to enable the new culture.”
- Is the business inherently delivering a positive societal purpose? CCOs are increasingly helping CEOs transform their companies by “defining, reinforcing or refining corporate character.” The survey reinforces that “stakeholders increasingly expect business to create … broader societal value.” Employees and customers are choosing companies based on their ability “to create meaningful, positive change in society.” Businesses need to be acting – and framing – their societal value in authentic ways, making it “an integral part of the fabric of the business.” CCOs help with the expression and reinforcement, but in fact, the embodiment of your purpose is delivered from the C-suite. If you’re living it — through supply chain, policies and processes, company conduct — your business is 99% of the way there.
- Is the pace of our communications technology matching our opportunities and risks? Finally, CCOs use technology to engage with diverse stakeholders, but also to defend the company against fast-moving misinformation and generate valuable data and insights. Even if you’re not ready for expensive “tech stacks” and sophisticated “CommTech,” the challenges are ubiquitous: listen to your audiences, engage in dialogue with (not at) them, and monitor changes in attitudes and information.
Regardless of the scope or sophistication of companies’ communications, the single most powerful part of corporate communications is always leadership’s strategic vision and voice. Every CEO can ask these questions, evaluate their company’s course, and guide the ship where they actually want it sailing.