A Look into the Future: The New CCO

March 14, 2016, Arthur W. Page Society

By Jon Iwata & Sean O'Neill

Today we are proud and excited to introduce a new Page Society report: The New CCO: Transforming Enterprises in a Changing World. It is our most forward-looking work to date, and is the culmination of nearly two years of multi-faceted research into the ways the CCO role is changing and what these changes hold for the future, for both CCOs and their enterprises.

The New CCO is the logical next chapter of Page thought leadership. In The Authentic Enterprise in 2007 we recognized how the rise of social media, more empowered and emboldened stakeholders, and the globalization of business were requiring enterprises to have a clearly defined purpose, and to engage authentically with stakeholders around that purpose, in order to earn and maintain trust. In Building Belief in 2012, we operationalized that concept by introducing a new model of corporate communications that describes how the CCO can do those things amid this new and evolving environment.

In 2016, these trends are no longer emerging; they have become our new reality – not just in the U.S. but all over the world. In fact, they have begotten even more changes, which elevate the pivotal role of today's CCO. This makes the present an ideal time to take a keen look at where we are and where we are going.

So, where are we? Highly engaged stakeholders, empowered by social media and demanding of greater transparency, pose new challenges for protecting brand and reputation. Evolving technology, geopolitics and demographics are transforming how CCOs and all C-Suite leaders manage stakeholder relationships. New ways to understand and use data are allowing for much more powerful and personal engagement. Teams are being composed and deployed in new ways as enterprises recognize the need to bring in new expertise in areas like behavioral economics and cultural intelligence.

Mindful that these forces and changes will persist (if not accelerate), the Page Society has constructed a contemporary framework that lays out the dimensions of an increasingly dynamic and vital CCO. Our research, which included multiple opportunities for Page members to contribute their perspectives and experiences, has produced three key elements of the modern CCO role:

  • Foundational Leadership: The CCO's conventional role – as strategic advisor, minder of trust and reputation, builder of corporate character and manager of stakeholder relationships – is more essential than ever before. The stakes are high, and the environment in which enterprises operate is complex. Understanding that environment and interpreting it strategically demands new types of business and leadership skills. As Christof Ehrhart of Deutsche Post DHL aptly put it, our role in the past was largely to help the world to understand our enterprises; now we are focused on helping our enterprises understand the world.
  • CCO as Integrator: Communications requires operating across a variety of business functions, positioning CCOs as a critical integrative force. Partnerships across the C-Suite – such as with CIOs on digital platforms and CHROs on employee engagement – are increasingly important. As enterprises move to be more agile in their efforts and compete in a complicated and fluid environment, CCOs are uniquely positioned to help align efforts across business functions.
  • Builder of Digital Engagement Systems: Today's enterprises have oceans of data that provide a window into understanding key stakeholders – who they are; what they want; how they behave; with whom they interact; what, when and how they make purchases; and so on. More sophisticated analysis of unstructured data can even interpret subjective factors like the sentiment of conversation, or even mood. But to truly leverage that data, CCOs will increasingly build digital engagement systems that both generate and learn from data to deliver personalized experiences for individual stakeholders. Some enterprises are already building these types of systems while others are using existing tools to draw insights that inform stakeholder engagement. In the future, CCOs will be at the helm of dedicated digital engagement systems that permeate the enterprise, transforming how they interact with employees, customers, advocates and detractors, among others.

These roles are by no means final or all-inclusive. Enterprises differ, and so too do the CCOs that serve them. But we believe, based on our research, that these three roles comprise the key components of the modern CCO role, representing how we will lead in the future.

We encourage you to read the full report or check out the digital version of the paper, and to stop by our publication on Medium. We would be very interested to know how these findings relate to your experience.

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