This year's Spring Seminar was my second as chairman, and I was honored to once again welcome over 300 Page and Page Up members and guests to a conference that somehow gets better each year. As you may have read in the days since, I was called away to duty and had to miss many of the sessions. (I feel terribly about it, but I am sure you can relate.) I did however manage to listen in to several sessions and was struck, even from afar, by the profound energy that is permeating our profession and Page.
We talked about the CCO being "indispensable." That's not a new development, but it is becoming truer by the day. The future of the CCO holds enormous potential for doing good, both inside and outside of the enterprise, and we saw that concept manifest itself repeatedly throughout those two days.
Jon Iwata of IBM revealed the early findings from the Page Society's coming report on the Future of the CCO, detailing five patterns that are emerging from the research he's led with his co-chair Sean O'Neill of Heineken. These trends are woven right into fabric of the conference and demonstrate some of the ways our indispensability matters today, and will matter even more in the years to come.
Mike Buckley of Facebook and Chris Monteiro of MasterCard were among many who described how their organizations are developing data-driven methods for driving meaningful, individualized engagement with stakeholders. And the legendary Jack Welch talked about data as a tool, like any other tool, that has the capacity to be valuable only if it is applied with strategic purpose toward a meaningful outcome. Jack listened in on this session and later said on CNBC (1:54) how impressed he was by it and the increasingly strategic role of the CCO.
Dr. Kit Yarrow and Chris Graves delivered invaluable insight into how the human brain works in ways that have huge implications for how we undertake communications, and organizations are increasingly bringing that kind of knowledge in-house. I know I'll never suggest we produce another "Myths/Facts" document to dispel misinformation, since people aren't persuaded in this way. Instead, we need to frame the issue in a personal context, tell a story, give an issue meaning.
Tim Mayopoulos, CEO of Fannie Mae, attested to that in describing how he values the need for leadership to establish an "emotional bond" built around the vision.
The morning before the conference opened featured five member-only workshops, and one - the one that booked up most quickly, as a matter of fact - was entirely devoted to this topic.
It's no secret that Facebook is leveraging deep analytics to refine their products and understand engagement on a real-time basis, and panelists spoke frequently about the obligation of the CCO to leverage data to assess ROI and add value to the enterprise.
According to the Page Jam survey we conducted last October, CCOs say that over the last five years their level of engagement with the CIO has increased more than with that of any other C-Suite colleague. That makes sense when we consider the fundamental relationship that technology plays to how we do our jobs today. But I notice something more. Page events are fantastic sources of content, but even better opportunities to network. The hallway conversations between corporate and agency members are often the seed from which great partnerships are born. For our recent "big news" on GE Capital, I drew on lessons from the great presentation that Elise Eberwein put together at the Annual Conference last fall on the American Airlines-US Airways merger. It's the power of Page to bring us together, and as partnerships become more essential, so too will our need to build our networks.
It's not so much that the future of our profession depends on meeting these trends. The futures of our enterprises do. The CCO is valuable, but as Joanne Bischmann of Harley-Davidson concluded in her own heartfelt "Indispensable Moment," it's not that the CCO is indispensable per se, but rather the communications function itself. My former boss Jack Welch talked about the CCO of the past being regarded largely as firefighter but now being highly valued for their ability to "make the organization smarter" and maintain the sanctity of "truth and trust." Leave it to Jack to find a way to sum up our entire profession in two words.
I want to thank all of the Spring Seminar speakers and especially Jen Prosek of Prosek Partners and her organizing committee for their incredible efforts to deliver a truly memorable event. Dave Samson of Chevron, who is chairing this year's Page Society Annual Conference in Chicago on September 27-29, gave us a taste of what to expect as we look forward to exploring the gathering storm of global forces transforming the role of the CCO. And I was pleased also to announce that the 2016 Annual Conference will be in London, demonstrating the Page Society's commitment to becoming a more globally diverse membership organization. We have exciting days ahead.
While I'm sorry that I missed much of this year's conference, I am so pleased at how vibrant and engaged our membership is with the Society's work. If there's one thing that this year's conference confirmed, it's that the future of the CCO is not only bright, but indeed essential to the success of each and every enterprise.
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