Arthur W. Page Society

Key Takeaways from the Page Conversation on the Future of Corporate Communications

Erin Passan, Vanguard; Jim O'Leary, Edelman; and Aaron Bernstein, Walmart

The past 18 months has been a period of compounding chaos. More than ever, stakeholders are demanding change and accountability from organizations, and navigating the landscape has never been more complex. This complexity has been an impetus for the increased focus on the CCO. And while the future may hold a “new normal” in store, this increase in importance for the role is here to stay.

So, what does the future hold for Corporate Communications? Below, we have parsed three of the key takeaways from our recent Page Conversation on the Future of Corporate Communications.

Technology-enabled Insights

Due in large part to the confluence of marketing and communications functions, there is a tremendous push for communicators to adopt new technologies. An impromptu poll from our conversation revealed that all attendees felt that marketing and communications were converging in at least some respect, and further conversations revealed that many attendees are now looking for ways to measure ROI, much like their marketing counterparts. Similarly, technology and real-time insights can help communicators course-correct when messaging is not landing, rescuing what otherwise would have been a failed campaign.

How do you begin standing up new technologies in the communications function? The key is starting small, and building out. Identify small areas where technology could measurably improve your impact, i.e. quick wins, and build on those wins to begin establishing a technologically-agile set of behaviors within your teams.

A Sustained Rise in Activism

Once upon a time, activists were considered a specific stakeholder group that was external to your organization. Now, activists can be identified in a slew of other stakeholder groups, from investors, to employees, and even board members. The defining trait of an activist is that they are seeking to drive change. So, how do CEOs manage their organizations and expectations when people are demanding change on all fronts?

The answer is by obtaining a multi-stakeholder view, enabled by the counsel of their CCOs. The CCO, more than any other member of the executive team, has the broadest purview into the various relationships an organization maintains. Not only can they help prioritize which stakeholders have the most influence, they can also find ways to synergize solutions, meeting the needs of multiple stakeholder groups at once.

New Skillsets are Needed

One of the most worrying trends discussed during the call was the lag of resources granted to CCOs to enact needed transformations. During the conversation, over half of the attendees shared they did not think there was alignment between their department’s resources and its strategic direction. CCOs are now being asked to use real-time data to inform strategic messaging while continuing to meet their prior responsibilities, with a stagnant or even shrinking budget.

Needless to say, this reality requires thinking about staffing (and the talent pool for communications professionals) in a new way. If corporate communications wants to use data analytics effectively, they need to either hire non-communications professionals with that skillset, or upskill their current staff to meet the need. Ultimately, the modern communications professional needs to reflect the modern CCO. They need deep expertise within their role, but a broad enough sense of business acumen to think strategically and tie their efforts back to the business goals.

Dig deeper into Edelman’s full report on the Future of Corporate Communications.

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