The Story of What & How

March 24, 2016, Roger Bolton

A new report from the Arthur W. Page Society examining the new chief communications officer (CCO) explains how enterprises can answer two questions: What and how.

The stakes are high for all institutions. For-profit businesses, not-for-profit charities and NGOs, and governments all face increasingly powerful demands from the public and influential stakeholders; if you want to be trusted, customers, voters, activists and influencers say, be worthy of trust.

That means enterprises have to be able to answer these questions:

  1. What value do we create? Increasingly, stakeholders agree: Enterprises should create not just customer and shareholder value, but social or societal value, as well.
  2. How do we create it? The same stakeholders say: Your values must honor your employees, communities and the environment, and your actions must be consistent with those values.

In 2012, the Page Society introduced the Page Model of Enterprise Communications, which argued that, in order to earn trust, enterprises must first establish a strong corporate character and then authentically engage stakeholders to earn their support. That report still stands as the best description of what the CCO must do.

Now, a new Page report on The New CCO examines how the CCO of the future will do those things. The report has three findings:

  • The foundational role of the CCO as business strategist, guardian of reputation and builder of stakeholder relationships is more critical than ever. The reputation of the enterprise and its ability to operate with public support has always depended on this role. Today, with radical transparency and hyper-connectivity, this role is more important than ever before.
  • Because the reality of stakeholder activism and influence is so pervasive, the CCO must be an effective integrator, working constructively across the enterprise to engage all leaders in this effort. Every executive and function in the enterprise must understand and be committed to building deep and meaningful stakeholder relationships.
  • The availability of vast amounts of data about stakeholders and their interests makes it possible for CCOs to build digital engagement systems that assess stakeholders and influencers, create content that addresses their needs and concerns, and arms all employees with the ability to engage in constructive dialogue with those stakeholders.

As I said, the stakes are high – for enterprises and for the function of corporate communications. If CCOs can step up and fulfill the promise laid out in this new report, which explains how CCOs can do what the Page Model says they must do, the future of both the enterprise and the function will be strong. If not, the enterprises we serve will be increasingly vulnerable to the fate that befalls all institutions that fail to achieve public approval. And the fate of the CCO in the enterprise will be similarly threatened.

There is tremendous opportunity for today's CCOs to avoid that dire fate. Our counsel is more valuable and necessary than ever. Our role in leading across the C-Suite is more essential. And the power of data to enable enterprises to build deeper, more personal, and more productive relationships with stakeholders, is the future of how we communicate. This is the dawn of the New CCO.

2 Comments

Great message, Roger. The function is more important today than ever before. You've done a great job of synthesizing the imperative. I find smart management groups asking for this role and input. Time for CCOSs to embrace the role and step into the challenge.
Bill, you nailed it, of course -- as always! Way to go Page.
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