The supercharged CCO

The Page Society's model is an action plan, not merely a vision of the future.

The language in the Arthur W. Page Society's "Building Belief" monograph is oriented to action, not reflection. Build. Launch. Create. Be a catalyst. The industry now has a model that suits the fast-paced, but uneven focus on innovation that is permeating the sector and companies large and small.

As a recent employee of the Page Society, I was privy to some of the model's development. However, I did not anticipate the muscularity of the finished product - or, unfinished, as its architects plainly urge industry input, and practice, to take it even further. "Now the time has come to turn thinking into transformational practice across our profession," says Page chairman Jon Iwata in the introduction.

"Actions are the new words," says Home Depot's Brad Shaw in the report. Shaw's comment relates to the need for companies to focus on behavior and performance, not just messages. But it works as a mantra for the new CCO, who will be engaged across the enterprise.

A chart titled "What CCOs can do" articulates the emerging role of the CCO as a "catalyst for collaboration" because "the activation of corporate character – and, indeed, more and more dimensions of [the CCO's] work today – involve multiple responsibilities that CCOs do not own." As it is increasingly understood that corporate character is tested and proven at every level – from messages to products to shareholder value – CCOs are positioned to drive for execution against its promise, far beyond their traditional remit.

It takes proactive, confident engagement to make that happen. It takes knowledge outside the scope of communications and courage to push for change. "Building Belief" reports that today's CCO must be an integrator, systems designer, master of data analytics, publisher and developer, student of behavioral science, and curator of corporate character. These are not passive pursuits.

The model's biggest detractors will be those who don't believe that the majority of the profession either wants to or is capable of rising to the standards it maps out. While it is true that some will adhere to the conventional framework, emerging leaders will be captivated by a more integrated view of their role across the enterprise.

In reality, future CCOs won't be able to choose. The world is moving in one direction – more open, more interdependent, and much, much faster. For a recent example, witness the intensity of the pressure on Foxconn's manufacturing practices and the urgent tone of its response. Communications, and the reputation expertise in its wheelhouse, will inevitably penetrate all aspects of business performance. Meanwhile, the opportunity remains for the function to be the primary driver of its own future.

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