Muscle memory is a powerful thing. Institutional structures are very difficult to change. And people defend their turf.
Those are three strong forces in almost every large enterprise, but I'd like you to imagine something.
Say you were starting your own company tomorrow. You sell life insurance. Maybe you produce a range of security products for a digital world. Perhaps you make toasters. Regardless of company type, let's say you have 500 employees.
It's a brand new company. It has no history. Here's the question: Do you have a dedicated marketing group? A separate communications group? A separate digital group? Separate customer service?
Or do you have something else? Perhaps an integrated marketing organization? Or an engagement group that houses much of the above and is focused on creating and cultivating customer and other stakeholder relationships?
For most people, as soon as their own “turf” is taken out of the equation, the answer becomes much more innovative and forward-looking. In other words, most folks may not be sure what a new organization should look like, but they intuitively believe it is very likely different than the traditional silos most companies have had in place for many years.
This is worth thinking about as you look forward to 2014 and 2015 in your own organizations. A remarkable number of restructurings are now in place or are being seriously contemplated. Visa, Microsoft, and many other leading companies are recent examples.
However, centralization vs. decentralization is just the tip of the iceberg. No question, there is a substantial trend toward greater centralization of the communications function. Why? The volume of company-produced content, a fragmented media landscape, and the complexity of stakeholder relationships all require tighter corporate alignment and better use of resources.
The hard part, however, is just coming into focus. Meaningful CRM, compelling and engaging content, the creation of corporate believers and brand ambassadors, and so much more all require thoughtful, creative, and data-driven choreography of the various functions.
It's too early to say how this plays out organizationally beyond the initial trends we see today. That said, communications executives would be well served to invest considerable staff time into learning these other functions and how they all complement one another in an optimal environment.
Today's CEO is demanding so much more of all functions who touch the customer experience. And it's just a start. A few years from now, these CEOs will be vastly more knowledgeable and more demanding. Indeed, we'll be seeing more and more “social CEOs.”
Are you ready for that? If not, now is a good time to prepare.Bob Feldman is cofounder and principal of PulsePoint Group, a digital and management consulting firm. He can be reached at email@example.com. His column focuses on management of the corporate communications function.