Richard Marshall and Peter McDermott, Korn Ferry

With the communications function now front and center of virtually every issue facing organizations today, doesn’t it make sense that Corporate Boards, who oversee governance and are accountable to shareholders, would want experienced board members who have the valuable skills our professionals offer? 

After all, who else in the organization is responsible for managing corporate reputation? Who else, other than the CEO, has a 360° vantage point of all stakeholders – And who else in the organization is navigating a complicated, and increasingly activist stakeholder matrix, scenario planning every corporate decision?

The communications function, and its new and broader remit, has moved from “getting a seat at the table” to being at the “center of the leadership table.’  And with communications leaders now regularly being asked to present to the board, the visibility and value-add of the function are becoming more apparent to boards. 

Does this mean that all boards will now be looking to add this perspective and credentials to their board roster? No, not exactly. But it does open the door for more opportunities for our profession to move into those seats.

The trends, as viewed at our firm and others in our space, show that Boards have been morphing over the last few years. While it used to be a cozy, close knit relationship with the CEO, in which the board would rubber stamp decisions, today boards are being held to higher standards and have been adding a broader mix of skills and experience that complement the leadership team. They are becoming more adaptable and inclusive, adjusting their rosters to bring needed perspectives on critical business issues such as corporate governance, DE&I, cyber, and more recently AI. And Boards are not purely reacting to external pressures on these topics but seeing the commercial value of these changes.

Boards work most effectively when there is alignment between their purpose, their composition (people), their approach to partnership, and their process and structure. And once again, who else in the organization has a track-record of aligning diverse stakeholders?

So while board composition is more diverse and fluid today, and communications and corporate reputation have gained greater mind share among boards, functional expertise is not enough.  It needs to be back-stopped with business acumen, ideally with experience in running a P&L, which adds credibility among other board members and investors. 

That experience will differentiate those in our profession who make the short-list for board seats. 

In our recent white paper, "CCOs: A new face on the Board," published in April 2024, we feature three Page members who now occupy board seats on publicly-traded companies. They offer their perspectives on how they are adding value to those organizations and some of the key traits they feel are important for any CCO looking to take on a board seat.