A few weeks back, I had the chance to co-host, with Jon Iwata of IBM, Roger Bolton of APCO and Jolie Hunt of Thompson Reuters, a dinner discussion on The Authentic Enterprise with some of the best agency minds in our profession.
Joining us for the evening were Richard Edelman of Edelman Worldwide, Mark Penn from Burson-Marsteller, Ray Kotcher from Ketchum, Aedhmar Hynes from Text 100 and Keith Yamashita, the principal of Stone Yamashita Partners. Julia Hood, who oversees PR Week, also joined us for the evening’s conversation. Our aim was to solicit some insights into how these leaders see the trends outlined in The Authentic Enterprise — globalization, Web 2.0 and greater stakeholder empowerment — are playing out inside the companies and institutions many of them represent.
As you might guess, each offered a unique perspective and there was no shortage of interesting conversation. In all honesty, however, the night’s discussion raised more questions than answers. Nonetheless, many of the issues raised were quite provocative (I hope readers of Page Turner, will weigh in with their own thoughts on these issues, since many of them are deserving of their own commentary).
As you ponder what the Authentic Enterprise means to you and your organization, how would you respond to these important questions?
• Who will seize the new responsibilities that are an outgrowth of the new environment described in the Authentic Enterprise — the CCO or the CMO?
There was no consensus view on this point, which means the jury is still out. Jon Iwata (who now oversees marketing and communications at IBM) felt strongly that there is a window of opportunity (maybe 18 months) for communicators to seize the opportunity in front of them, though he is not convinced many chief communications officers will seize the day.
• Do today’s CCOs have the capability and influence within their organizations to take on these expanded opportunities?
Bottom line: Some do. Some do not. Some don’t desire to. While some in our profession are eager to take on the expanded role of marketing, others aren’t willing to expend the political capital necessary to do so for a range of reasons. For example, in some industries, such as Technology, the CCO is still more likely to report to the CMO than the CEO.
• Are agencies challenging their clients to take a broader view?
Yes and no. Many of the larger firms — Edelman, Burson and Ketchum are encouraging their clients to take a broader view of communications inside their respective organizations, though they were quick to point out that some clients see communications as a strategic function, while others see it as simply a transactional function.
One of Aedhmar Hynes’s great revelations occurred when she migrated to the U.S. from the UK. In the UK, Aedhmar said her principal client was most often the CEO versus the CCO. In the U.S. she’s found it to be just the opposite. A dynamic to which she has had to adjust.
Still, for others, like Keith Yamashita, his clients are seldom the CCO or the CMO. In fact, Keith’s firm is usually hired by CEOs of major brand companies — like HP, Starbucks and Mercedes-Benz — when they are facing big challenges or undergoing major change.
In the end, I thought Keith offered one of the evening’s most insightful observations. He said that when your client is the CEO, you seldom run into turf problems between the CCO and the CMO. Somehow, they just figure out how to collaborate and work together. Regardless of our individual circumstances, that’s something all communicators should think hard about.
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