A seat at the top table must not be cause for complacency

There has been a lot of talk recently, not least in the pages of PRWeek, about how PR and communications is finally on the front foot and being given credit for the uniquely useful and essential contributions it makes at all levels of companies and organizations.

There has been a lot of talk recently, not least in the pages of PRWeek, about how PR and communications is finally on the front foot and being given credit for the uniquely useful and essential contributions it makes at all levels of companies and organizations.

This is a welcome development, one that has been a long time coming. The top table at many - though certainly not yet all - corporations now very much includes the chief communications officer.

But this ascendancy in fortunes should not be a cue for the communications industry to become complacent. Winning the first skirmish in an ongoing battle is just one hurdle in credibility that needs to be overcome.

Those fabled "top tables" are, by their nature, rife with big egos, politics, and power struggles. There are elements that have long cherished their place at the right hand of the CEO, and they don't necessarily welcome "newcomers" muscling in on their space.

Of course, in an ideal world the CEO or chairman is at the apex of the communications process, leading from the front with the support of his or her partners in the communications department.

The next stage of the battle may well relate to which member of the top table oversees the communications function: should it continue to be the chief communications officer, or might it increasingly move to the remit of the chief marketing officer, or even elsewhere?

Many CMOs totally "get" communications and are some of its strongest advocates. But others are still stuck in the traditional worlds of advertising and media where earned media and its impact on reputation simply isn't understood to the same degree as bought media.

That's why it is important for the future development of communications - and the agencies that service and support that function - that the CCO role retains its prominence at the top table.

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