More than a dozen Page members and guests held a discussion on Wednesday at the Financial Times in London, hosted by page member Darcy Keller, global director of communications of the Financial Times Group, and moderated by Andrew Hill, management editor of the FT.  Sandra Macleod, CEO of Mindful Reputation, was instrumental in organizing the event and Page Chairman Gary Sheffer, vice president of corporate communications and public affairs for GE, kicked off the discussion.

The conversation focused on the changing role of the corporate chief communications officer.  Here are some observations from that session:

Massive changes in the business environment – driven by globalization, hyper-connectivity, stakeholder empowerment and radical transparency – are changing expectations and responsibilities for the entire C-Suite.  The role of the CCO, in particular, has already changed substantially, with equally rapid change likely to continue.

CEOs and boards are highly focused on reputational risk, leading to a desire to make sure the enterprise defines and activates a strong corporate culture.  As a result, the job of the CCO is much more internally focused than in the past.

The CCO must be the convener of an internal coalition, dedicated to creating a way of being that embodies the enterprise’s corporate character.  Leadership from the C-Suite, encouraged by the CCO, must help all associates have a sense of belonging and pride in the enterprise that motivates them to do the right thing.

Enlightened enterprises are working actively, led by the CCO, to enable all employees and extended allies and partners to advocate on behalf of the enterprise.  This means turning employees into communicators, trusting them and letting them go, enabled by content, training and motivation.  This requires significant investment in systems and processes.

CCOs in the future will need to be equipped with new skills, including developing content, designing systems, coaching, consulting, collaborating, and exerting influence when having accountability but not authority.

This thoughtful conversation was a good kickoff to a new Page effort to define the future of the chief communications officer, which is being led by Jon Iwata of IBM and Sean O’Neill of Heineken.  If you have ideas to contribute, let me know.