I am lucky to have the opportunity to provide PR counsel to some of the best companies and top corporate communicators in the world. I've worked my whole career to have these dream clients, many of whom seem to have reached the pinnacle of success.
As these relationships have developed, however, I've learned something unexpected: chief communications officers are often lonely.
Their jobs have become more demanding, complex, and multi-dimensional, and their global responsibilities mean they're working around the clock. There's scant time for connecting with industry colleagues, attending meetings, or becoming active in organizations. CCOs do very little peer networking, and that's unfortunate. Just when they need a network the most, they have no time to develop one.
I've found that most of my clients desperately need a peer network to lean on, both for job growth and for sanity. The ability to reach out to a true peer and bounce ideas or trade war stories is critical. In a profession that preaches thought leadership, building your personal brand, and networking, it's a shame that more corporate communicators are not plugged in.
A lack of strong networks also affects their careers. In my experience, those who are well connected and have a strong leadership brand are more likely to land the biggest jobs.
On last week's PRWeek Power List, I recognized many members from my own networking circles at the Yale Chief Executive Forum, Columbia Business School, Arthur Page Society, Council of PR Firms, and other organizations. Most of the folks on the list have (somehow) found the time not only to network with peers, but also to give back to the profession. Still, many others lack these meaningful connections.
Over time, I saw a way to help our clients develop these critical networks. Several years ago, we launched an experiment and sponsored a Corporate Communicators Roundtable. We didn't know how the idea would be received and we didn't want to be known as the PR firm that threw a party where no one showed up!
As the RSVPs came in for the first roundtable, however, we started to relax. We discovered that offering clients an opportunity to network with others at their level was a huge draw.
To facilitate these relationships, we hold regular intimate meetings for corporate communicators. We have found that perhaps the greatest gift you can give someone is an enhanced network. These sessions have become so popular they are often sold out.
What does that signify? To me, it says that CCOs are hungry to connect professionally and personally. They know they need to network and build their personal leadership brand, but work and life have become so demanding that this critical practice falls to the bottom of the list.
As author and entrepreneur Seth Godin, who has been called "America's greatest marketer," says, "Many of us are taught to do our best and then let the world decide how to judge us. I think it's better to do your best and decide how you want to be judged. And act that way."
I couldn't agree more. And if this blog post has inspired at least one CCO out there to make this a priority, I will have done my best work.
Jen Prosek is managing partner at CJP Communications.