Arthur W. Page Society

What I Heard from Members in Europe and Asia

One thing is extremely clear coming out of a series of meetings that Peter Debreceny, Page’s VP of international, and I held recently with Page members and prospects in 15 cities in 11 countries across Europe and Asia: the chief communication officer is more valued and more at the center of the strategic discussion in their organizations than ever before. 

Page’s 2019 research report, “The CCO as Pacesetter,”  said that CEOs were looking for help in transforming their enterprises in the face of disruptive new business models and increasing demands from stakeholders to build societal value. We reasoned that this gave CCOs an opportunity to step up and take on a bigger strategic role, and we warned that CEOs would turn elsewhere if CCOs didn’t do so.

Since then, the transformative imperative has only increased, driven by changes resulting from the global pandemic, rising concerns about climate change, geopolitical destabilization and polarization, and accelerating technology in the form of artificial intelligence.

The good news is, many CCOs and heads of corporate affairs around the world have indeed stepped up. Their expertise in understanding the multistakeholder environment and ability to think critically and strategically about the implications of all these socio-political-economic trends for their businesses puts them at the center of corporate deliberations. In fact, new research that Page will soon be sharing reveals that many CCOs’ remits are expanding into areas like Public Affairs, Human Resources, Sustainability and other disciplines that benefit from a multistakeholder view. 

One member in Stockholm said, “The best CCOs have ALWAYS been transformational leaders. We are transformative.” But she agreed that so many more of our colleagues have that kind of leadership influence today than even just a few years ago. 

In Tokyo, we heard about how critical it is for the CCO to be constantly involved in re-examining and updating mission, purpose and values, and working across the organization as an integrator to make sure the business model, strategy, operations and incentives are aligned so as to make it real in the daily behaviors and actions of the organization.

In Munich, one CCO commented that she and her team must have “technical knowledge, business knowledge, and be curious and precise.” Another member added, “And critical thinking.” Our new research also underscores the growing role of CCOs as sense-maker in an increasingly complex and volatile operating environment.

Sustainability was a hot topic everywhere, including in China, where we heard a compelling report on the role of the CCO in leading on ESG policy and reporting. In Australia, one CCO discussed an impending decision to fundamentally restructure the approach to their business model in response to ESG considerations with significant implications for society and employment. In The Netherlands, one CCO offered, “Resilience is required in the face of accelerating demands. Empower your team.”

Unfortunately, that good news is accompanied by the reality that many CCOs and their teams are struggling to keep up with the accelerating demands. They don’t always have the skills and resources to succeed, many are working what feels like 24/7, and they are feeling stretched and burned out.

Across our visits with members, Peter and I heard one resounding response: We’ve got to learn to prioritize, to take on the increasingly strategic remit while letting go of more basic, routine functions. More than one CCO reported telling business leaders that their functions could no longer handle routine internal personnel announcements and the like.

They also expressed the need for more effective, data-driven reports on the impact of their work in meeting corporate objectives – not just clicks or impressions, but actions that result in changed behaviors.

Many of the CCOs we met also welcomed upcoming Page initiatives, including a Page-Yale School of Management partnership on a Yale certificate executive education program which will be held in New Haven, CT on February 12-15 for Page- or Page Up-eligible communication leaders. The program will provide detailed instruction on building multistakeholder value through innovation. You can learn more and enroll for the program here.

Finally, Peter and I are heartened by the joyful coming together of members to engage with each other and share insights in the Page tradition. It reaffirmed our view that the primary benefit of Page membership remains the community of peers who come together to learn and share with each other. 

Page and Page Up members wishing to join upcoming opportunities to gather with peers are encouraged to check out our robust schedule of upcoming events, including these international options:

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