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CCOs greater corporate communications responsibilities

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CCOs are assuming new responsibilities, taking a greater role in protecting the corporate reputation, improving the corporate culture, and engaging a wide range of stakeholders, according to new research from Page, a professional association for senior public relations and corporate communications executives.

COOs are in the middle of a reorganization of corporate leadership structure. More are assuming responsibility for the corporate brand, a role that’s sometimes transferred from chief marketing officers. CMOs have traditionally focused on the customer’s viewpoint. Corporations now realize they must pay greater attention to the ever-changing views of employees, investors, governments and the public at large. That requires new thinking as well as new systems and tools.

The Business Roundtable’s new Statement on the Purpose of a Corporation, signed by 181 major corporation CEOs, states that shareholder value is no longer the singular concern for corporations and that corporations must take into account all stakeholders, including customers, employees, suppliers, and communities.

CCOs are stepping up and playing a leading role in helping CEOs transform their organizations. “CEOs across industries and regions are driving the greatest wave of transformation in generations,” the report states. “It is striking that not only are so many companies changing simultaneously, but many are changing into the same kind of company. We are seeing the emergence of a new business design.”

Customers and increasingly investors demand that corporations demonstrate their value to society. The most vocal demands come from employees, who may base career decisions on opportunities to promote positive change in society. Many CCOs already manage, or work closely with, corporate responsibility departments and are taking a larger role in corporate social responsibility.

More CCOs are also taking on a larger role in improving and corporate culture. Working closely with human resources, they are moving beyond traditional employee communications to the brand’s aspirations and reality.

CCOs are adopting new technologies, or CommTech, to better engage stakeholders. Such tools will be essential to combat the growing threat of machine-amplified misinformation and deepfakes. Progressive CCOs are establishing dedicated teams, formally training them, and equipping them with tech tools.

Others agree that the CCO role is changing and expanding.

CCOs Critical to Business Success

“Based on my perspective, this position has never been more critical to the health and success of a business,” writes Lou Casale, head of communications at specialist insurer Hiscox. “The role is no longer to simply generate attention and positive press coverage for the company. The person in this position needs to promote and protect the brand’s reputation. And in today’s high-stakes, combative environment, protection takes precedence over promotion.”

The shift is most noticeable among elite corporate affairs executives. “These best-in-class corporate affairs officers shoulder a broadening scope of responsibilities and an increasing mandate to act as high-level strategic advisors to CEOs, and they frequently serve as members of the senior leadership team,” states the report from Korn Ferry Global Corporate Affairs Practice.

Although responsibilities and influence of top CCOs have increased, corporate communications may garner less respect than other more data-based departments because of the difficulty in measuring the effectiveness of corporate communications. However, sophisticated media measurement tools and other technology tools will help CCOs gather the data and insights needed to reach informed decisions.

“While it’s still tough to measure the efficacy of corporate communications, new tools in sentiment analysis, reputation analysis, and brand assessment are adding more rigor to the field,” notes PR expert Wendy Marx, President of Marx Communications, in an article for Fast Company.

Bottom Line: Chief communications officers are shouldering far greater responsibility in major corporations, providing CEOs strategic advice on corporate reputation, corporate culture and values. That requires new thinking along with new systems and tools including measurement and analytics.