RT: We have heard you elaborating on “The Page Model of enterprise communication: building belief”. Please tell us something about this.
RB: When we introduced the Page Model in 2012, we thought of it as a hypothesis – as our preliminary ideas about how to describe the critical work of the Chief Communication Officer (CCO) in the enterprise. Today, I am much more confident that the model effectively articulates the value we are – or should be – creating. It has two parts:
Corporate Character refers to the unique differentiating identity of the enterprise which is created by defining and aligning mission, purpose, values, culture, business model, strategy and brand; and then ensuring that everyone associated with the enterprise embodies that unique identity in every action, every day. In essence, we are arguing that the first job of the CCO is to help the enterprise become an organisation that is truly deserving of public trust.
Authentic Advocacy is the part of the model that describes the process the CCO uses to build stakeholder trust. It always starts with shared belief. What is the core principle on which the enterprise and the stakeholder can agree? The dialogue around that can lead to a positive action – a decision to buy the product or the stock, to support the company’s policy position, or to enter into a partnership. Over time, as the action is repeated and the relationship develops, confidence begins to form on both sides that the relationship is valuable and enduring. That, in turn, can lead to advocacy by the stakeholder on behalf of the enterprise, which starts the virtuous cycle all over again, with belief, action, confidence and advocacy.
RT: You speak about a different way to make connections with people leading to new kinds of stakeholders. Please elaborate.
RB: I think the point here is that everyone has the potential to be an advocate or a critic, so it’s incumbent upon us to engage with everyone. Obviously, some require more personal time and attention than others, but with today’s social media and data analytical tools, we can use systems to effectively engage with everyone with tailored, individualised content and attention.
RT: You maintain that the role of the CCO has become increasingly important in today’s business environment, and that “it is a challenge to protect brands in a radically transparent and hyper-connected world”. Please comment.
RB: Today, people around the world have access to information, to expertise and to the means to rapidly connect with others, sharing insights and information about everything our enterprises do. So, the enterprise must constantly be on its toes, working diligently to ensure that its actions are appropriate and that its purpose – which should be to create broad societal value – is being pursued.
RT: You have pointed out that although the digital economy has not changed the essence of the profession, there is a need for more training in people management and processes. How would you comment on the scenario today?
RB: The core work that we do – building corporate character and authentic advocacy, as described by the Page Model – has not changed much. But the tools we have available to us – and that our potential critics employ – have changed dramatically. We must, therefore, be adept at using these new tools. In our new report on The New CCO, we argue for the creation of Digital Engagement Systems through which CCOs will be able to use sophisticated data analytics to understand stakeholders and enable employees to engage stakeholders effectively.