Recently, I had the chance to speak with a dozen or so Chief Communications Officers (CCOs) at Fortune 500 organizations on the state of communications in society and within companies today and what they envision tomorrow.
While the conversations went back and forth between the immediate priorities – social impact, innovation, value, reporting lines, KPIs, employee and customer attention, absorption, and position tenure – the fascinating part of these interactions rested on the future state.
Here is a snapshot of this cohort of CCOs believe will constitute the future of communications and its resulting effect on business and the world in general:
Communications Efficacy in a Post-Truth World
What is truth?
That is the question as we track ahead. What seems like a simple answer is no longer.
Much is changing in society. Technology has given everyone a voice resulting in myriad interpretations and perceptions. Shifting beliefs abound. Facts and numbers can be manipulated.
Misinformation. Deception. Bias. Obfuscation. Enemies of truth abound.
How will CCOs discover and perpetuate truth?
Talent Development and Growth
What should a Communications Professional be skilled at? Organizational dynamics? Business Acumen? Writing? Critical Thinking? Technology Savvy? Strategy? Media and Influencer Outreach? Data and Analytics?
Who should be educating the profession? Universities? Corporations? Trade Groups? How should communications pros be developed and nurtured through their careers.
All agreed this is the most challenging, scary, and opportunistic area enveloping our world. No one knows the ultimate experience journey, but the first steps are happening now.
C-Suite Value, Business Impact
It starts with access including reporting lines. Many CCOs bemoaned the shifting nature of advocacy in organizations and the move to reporting to HR, Governance, or even Legal vs the Chairman, CEO, or Board.
Communications is a strategic level function that must reside at the highest level of the enterprise to positively impact the business.
If not, then it becomes a tactical exploit.
Customer and Employee Insights, Confidence
If there is one pattern of agreement among this group it’s that comprehending both customers and employees in an effort to gain, retain relevance and engender confidence is key.
How will we understand our workforce? Can we eliminate the one-size-fits-all model of employee communications? Can we have a relationship with customers beyond the transaction?
Confidence inside and outside the organization is the currency of tomorrow.
A Final View
As someone who served as and continues to work with CCOs and CEOs, I found participating in these discussions refreshing and informative. For me, the take-aways illuminate the true nature of our profession as it forges its way to the future:
While much progress and success has been achieved in securing a position at the leadership level, the events of the last several years reminds us such a role must be earned every day.
There is too much change and uncertainty, an increasing level of technology and innovation, shifting expectations of work, and the like requiring savvy, strategic advice, counsel and action.
With every CCO reporting outside of the CEO suite, we take a step backwards in terms of value and efficacy.
The most valuable trait we can have as a professional is our Point-of-View (POV). It's not our skills , which are commodities, but our thinking, approach, and counsel that counts.
This is derived from experience, background, curiosity, expertise, and exploration all working together to generate perspective.
The future is an evolution of the past. It is also a reflection of new and different elements painting a world of diverse and special gifts for society. For CCOs, assessing the current state of your business and competitive landscape, employee experience, leadership priorities, customer expectations, and potential risks is the first step in channeling the future.
As these communications leaders shared, data can uncover much of what's been invisible shaping a newfound comprehension of critical areas impacting the organization. It’s only a question of seeking it out and sifting for the gold.
CCOs are akin to pro football’s quarterback. Everything concerning reputation, relevance and trust revolves around them. How they lead. How they respond, How they direct. How they pivot.
How they keep score.
For this group, the future is already here!
Gary F. Grates is Principal and Managing Director of GConsulting Group, a global consulting and advisory firm focused on business transformation/change, organizational communications, and corporate relevance. He was formerly Principal and Global President Corporate Communications at Real Chemistry, VP/NA Communications, General Motors, President and Managing Director, Edelman Change and Employee Engagement, and Partner/CEO BoxenbaumGrates. He is a noted authority in change management and corporate positioning and an adjunct professor at Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications. He is a member of Page, Trustee at IPR, and Board member at Plank.
As Page members gather in Chicago for the 32nd Page Annual Conference we find ourselves at a crossro…