Spring Seminar Day 1: What Does the Future Hold?

April 10, 2015, Arthur W. Page Society

Day one of the 2015 Arthur W. Page Society Spring Seminar is in the books.

The driving theme behind today's sessions focused on the reality that every CCO is operating in an increasingly complex and rapidly changing business environment. With this change, of course, comes uncertainty. So, this year, we set out to explore a few important questions:

  • How can CCOs make themselves indispensable to their organizations?
  • How can we help to evolve the role of the CCO?
  • What will this evolved role look like?
Day one provided some valuable insight into these questions. Page Society Chairman Gary Sheffer, and Spring Seminar Chair and Jennifer Prosek of Prosek Partners, opened the conference by stressing the importance of the current and future role of the CCO. Specifically, the two emphasized the idea that the value the CCO profession delivers to companies has never been greater.

Edie Weiner, President/Futurist at Weiner, Edrich Brown, delivered the first keynote. She talked about how no profession can control the information that used to singularly define a group with knowledge having been digitized, and of the “defrocking of the professional priesthoods." Edie suggested that “intelligence" – the ability to use critical thinking to arrive at answers – will increasingly trump “smart," with knowledge increasingly available to all. She also suggested that we are moving into a paradigm of learning and away from a paradigm of traditional education, and that we'll increasingly be challenged to guide audiences through more experiential communications such as games and immersive experiences.

[caption id="attachment_27017" align="alignright" width="480" caption="Jon Iwata of IBM presents preliminary findings from the Page Society's Future of the CCO project at Spring Seminar."][/caption]

Jon Iwata of IBM then delivered preliminary findings on The Future of the CCO research project, which will result in a new report scheduled to launch this summer. Research undertaken by the Society underscored major trends underpinning the changing role of communications leaders, including:

  • Shifting investments
  • Creation of new job roles
  • Transformation of organizational design
  • New KPIs and measurement tools
  • New external and internal partnerships, with the CIO joining the CMO in importance to the CCO
Jon previewed the report and outlined a few takeaways for CCOs looking to prepare for the future. He encouraged all attendees to:
  • Continue to be grounded in the enduring responsibilities of great chief communications officers;
  • Acquire differentiating business leadership skills; and
  • Build and operate systems and capabilities that directly engage individuals at scale.
After a short break, Sylvia Ann Hewlett, Founder And Chief Executive Officer, Center For Talent Innovation, dove into research that outlined three components CCOs should consider when projecting credibility: Gravitas, Communication and Appearance.
  • Gravitas – How do you project that you know your information? That you have incredible poise and confidence and knowledge about your domain?
  • Communication – How can you be clear and compelling when presenting your ideas and point of view?
  • Appearance – How do you present yourself?
The day concluded with a panel discussion entitled, “Disruptive Brands Go Global," moderated by Melissa Selcher of Cisco Systems. During the session, panelists Mike Buckley of Facebook and Jenifer Howard of MakerBot discussed the importance of the future CCO approaching their work with a global mindset and underscored the importance of having strong local teams to provide in-market perspectives. The challenges of minding local cultures and customizing communications strategies is a crucial challenge that CCOs can and will lead as businesses expand globally.

Throughout the day, various executives shared stories of when they realized what an impact their role had on the success of their organization—times when they realized how truly 'indispensable' their role had become. Oscar Suris of Wells Fargo & Company and Michael Merk of Steelcase, Inc. were both on hand to share these “Indispensable Moments."

Check back here tomorrow for a recap of the action from Day two. More soon.

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