Page: CCOs must embrace changing role as 'builder of digital engagement systems'

NEW YORK: The Arthur W. Page Society released a 53-page report on Wednesday describing how the chief communications officer role is changing due to greater demands from stakeholders and the public.

Called "The New CCO: Transforming Enterprises in a Changing World," the report stressed that the position of the communications chief is growing in prominence.

"The role of the CCO has never been more important. The business environment today is dramatically different, raising the stakes for all enterprises and institutions, which face increasingly powerful demands from the public and influential stakeholders," said Arthur W. Page Society president Roger Bolton.

He added that while the organization’s last report said groups must develop strong corporate characters and earn stakeholder trust, this edition explained how communications chiefs can play a role.

"This report on ‘The New CCO’ describes how the CCO of the future will help the enterprise do this – by being a strategic business counselor, integrating an enterprise response to stakeholder demands, and building stakeholder relationships through digital engagement systems," Bolton said.  

The report also noted that the chief communications officer will be central to guiding these changes, and pointed out five patterns that reflect how the comms function is changing. It described shifting investments, increased focus on integration, creation of new roles, new partnerships, and new measurements and key performance indicators.

Those changes mean the modern comms leader is serving in three fundamental roles: "the foundational CCO," "the CCO as integrator," and "CCO as builder of digital engagement systems."

"With the growing expectation that enterprises operate transparently and responsibly and serve a greater social purpose, the work of defining and aligning corporate character becomes ever more important," the report’s executive summary stated, describing the first two roles.

As to the third role – builder of digital engagement systems – the report pointed out that digital fluency is key to winning support from other executives.

During a panel held Wednesday to kick off the report, Jon Iwata, IBM's SVP of marketing and communications, said that CCOs would have the toughest time wrapping their arms around the digital engagement aspect of their evolving roles.

"It's not just about new tools and new channels, but a fundamental change in decision making and perception shaping," he said.

"The CCO’s ability to win the support of C-suite colleagues and direct their efforts to a singular purpose requires the ability to fully integrate the work of communications while applying data analytics, cultural intelligence, and behavioral economics precepts," the report stated. "CCOs will leverage this knowledge to build sophisticated systems that bring corporate character to life through personalized engagement experiences?with employees as well as customers."

Richard Edelman, who was also on the panel, noted that today's CCOs find themselves working with a younger generation of CEOs and board members who are more focused on issues that relate to business such as cybersecurity, rather than broader societal issue such as race.

Added panel moderator Gary Sheffer, former VP of corporate communications and public affairs at GE, "CEOs have never been taught the role of influence and it is up to the CCOs to integrate a set of values and take them beyond the firewalls of an organization."

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