Why communications teams have (finally) earned a seat at the C-Suite table
A data-driven mindset is helping demonstrate tangible ROI across the enterprise, while elevating the PR and corporate communications teams
In the past, the PR and corporate communications teams demonstrated progress and accomplishment to superiors and executives through the “thud factor.” Dropping a fat, weekly clipping report on the desk of an executive was the primary way to signify a “job well done.” From my early days in the PR profession, I remember this process very well (and enjoyed making the hand-deliveries and the big “drops”).
While these self-serving reports looked impressive, they were never an accurate representation of the dynamics transpiring across the marketplace. Did the reports highlight the true performance of the competition? What were the key takeaways that executives could bring into their next strategic planning meeting? Was the company’s brand on the rise or decline in the marketplace?
On paper, there was no clear way of way of telling and demonstrating proof. This lack of proof also cursed the PR and communications teams. How? PR and communications teams were a mirror image of these reports, and often struggled to demonstrate value and ROI across the enterprise.
That curse has finally been broken.
The overwhelming amount of data produced across the media spectrum (digital, social, traditional, broadcast, etc.) has created an environment where the Chief Communications Officer (CCO) and their teams are now elevated and highly regarded to deliver strategic intelligence across the enterprise and within the C-suite.
Here are the four major shifts that have made the CCO indispensable to the enterprise and his/her peers in the C-suite:
#1. Media data is extremely valuable to the broader company
Media and social intelligence is finding a home outside of the confines of corporate communications. Specifically, marketing, investor relations, legal, business development (M&A transactions), government and public affairs, corporate security, strategy and the CEOs office all benefit from this treasure trove of information. While this data will still be leveraged to create highly accurate media reports (an evolution from the clip reports of yore), cross-departmental teams are finding immediate use for this information in their day-to-day jobs.
For example, corporate security teams are using media intelligence to determine if any geography poses a threat to a traveling executive. Business development teams will know if someone is leaking news of a pending acquisition. Government affairs teams will get an early warning if a key lawmaker is demonstrating unfavorable sentiment towards specific regulation. Marketing teams can quickly identify the ideal influencers that are supporting the company’s brand. The list goes on and on…
With such a broad constituency to support, many CCOs are building physical “Mission Control” infrastructures that serve as central clearing house and hub for data, metrics, reporting and coordinated workflows across departments.
#2. When all hell breaks loose, CCOs are able to calmly calibrate and counter the crisis
CCOs are now the voice of reason during a crisis. In the same way that we value a doctor’s opinion when we make the unexpected visit to the emergency room, CCOs have their finger on the pulse of a crisis.
Armed with the right data, the CCO can gauge against a normal baseline of media activity to determine if a situation warrants a “defcon-5” crisis status. At the same time, early warnings in the form of social conversations or marketplace patterns might signal that a crisis is about to erupt. Finally, data can provide the blueprint for countering a crisis and executing the right response plan.
#3. CCOs possess a unique dataset (and skill set) to look ahead and plan strategy
In a fast moving and competitive marketplace, every company is looking for a competitive advantage and to read the tea leaves of fickle and demanding customers. While sales performance and customer service data can yield important insights, media and social intelligence — if harnessed properly — can become a “focus group on demand.” Sentiment, key issues and topics, and influencer conversations will provide answers to strategic questions and support decision-making that fuels a company’s growth.
#4. CCOs can truly become protectors of the brand
Ultimately, CCOs are now finding themselves in the same room with the CEO, CMO and Chief Risk Officers to protect the company’s crown jewels: brand reputation. Building a solid risk mitigation framework — fortified with intelligence gleaned from the media universe — will create a strong fortress around the company’s brand. While shareholder activists, hackers and negative influencers will always represent imminent risks, CCOs and their partners across the company, are in a stronger position to be proactive during any crisis or unexpected event.
What’s next for the communications team?
In this new world, CCOs and their teams are quickly learning that they need to build the right infrastructure, data, systems and processes to execute on their newly elevated charter.
The next crisis will be different than the last. Bad news will travel faster. Consumers will find yet another new reason to buy from your competitors. And empowered stakeholders will multiply at a faster clip.
CCOs need to move fast to adapt to this new reality. The “thud factor” is gone. The winning teams will be the ones that move fast, and consolidate metrics and reporting. Building this new infrastructure doesn’t happen overnight and teams need to take an incremental approach. Yet, the payoff for persistence will be huge — and the ROI becomes easy to articulate to every stakeholder across the company
To learn more about this trend and the elevated role of the CCO, download our new white paper: The Mission Control Mandate for Today’s Chief Communications Officer.