The evolving role of the Chief Communications Officer

The importance of communication be it internal or external has changed over a period of time. Especially in last 10 years the role of CCO (Chief Communication Officer) has become so vital in every organisation as the dynamics of media changed. In the good old days, we had a PR department whose primary function was to manage a few media coverage and religiously print and publish the newsletter which is internally circulated to the employees. Getting the newsletter was always a challenge as to get the content on time was a tough task. And communication was more of an one-way engagement where message was forcefully pushed.

Today the significance of corporate communication has increased manifolds and has also evolved considerably. There are multiple challenges the CCO faces today starting from managing the corporate reputation to fighting crisis in a very complex environment (VUCA WORLD). He or she has managed multiple stakeholders and channels seamlessly to ensure that the reputation of the company or the brand is stable and well maintained. So today it not just about aligning your overall communication strategy of your organisation but driving it beyond and delivering your core message consistently to all your target audience that you have defined.

The role of CCO today is crucial in any large organisation. And that is why there is lot of importance and thrust being given to have a strong communication team that will work seamlessly across all functions in the organisation to manage the corporate reputation. What’s more interesting is that companies are also encouraging and giving more freedom to CCO’s to perform and are also inducting them to be part of the board.

So why the CCO’s have become so important in many organisations today. And what are the challenges they are facing to navigate through a very tough environment to build a robust team to seamlessly work with all departments. And how CCO’s can bring that difference in the company to build strong messaging and communication strategy for the organisation to safe guard the brand reputation. Here are some of the actions the CCO should take to make the corporate communications as the backbone of any large organisation.

  1. Even the CEOs are giving importance to the Corporate Communication and is hiring the right CCO as managing corporate and brand reputation is top on the agenda of any company today. Good reputation will help in so many ways starting from projecting the right image to getting the right talent to join the organisation.
  2. The CHRO and CCO should in work in tandem to make the internal communication strong so that there is unified messaging that goes to all the stakeholders with in the organisation.
  3. The CCO should try and reduce the thin and blur line between marketing and communication and work as a team to build a strong brand.
  4. Cohesive working with CEO’s and senior leadership team will help in arriving at decisions quickly and correctly.
  5. The pandemic opened a new window for PR and Communication being a powerful tool. It is now up to the CCO to take it to the next level and bring in value for the organisation both at the individual, corporate level and business wise.
  6. Time has come for CCO ‘s to think beyond communication also. Today many companies are roping in the CCO’s to be part of the group’s business and strategic thinking teams.
  7. While the CCO’s heads a team which is a cost centre of the organisation but he must also ensure that the budget allocated is judiciously spent. Get your budgets worked out right at the beginning of the year for every activity.
  8. Agility and technology should be imbibed with every employee to stay tuned with the digital world.
  9. Data and research must be leveraged at every point to draw good insights and get a powerful messaging that will drive the corporate and individual brand.
  10. Finally, CCO must measure the impact of all their communication activities. This is where they must ensure that a right methodology and performance matrix is followed to evaluate all the campaigns.

The role of CCO is only gathering importance and momentum. CEO’s and business leaders should partner with them and take their valuable advice and guidance to strengthen the reputation of the organisation. The knowledge and expertise that the CCO brings to the table will only help in building the credibility and facing new challenges in the VUCA world. The leadership team should not view them as a cost centre but instead leverage their communication skills and expertise to weave it in the overall business strategy of the organisation.

The views and opinions published here belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the publisher.

Ganapathy Viswanathan
An independent consultant in Branding and Communication, Ganapathy Viswanathan comes with over three decades of experience in Brand Communication, Public Relations & Digital Marketing. He has worked in diverse disciplines with several multinational advertising agencies like Ogilvy, Lowe and Mudra Group.

On the Public Relations front, he was the General Manager, Western region of 20:20 MSL, where he spearheaded the western region operations. In his last role he was the Senior Vice President, Sales & Marketing Communication at Eureka Mobile Advertising - a mobile engagement company in India head quartered in UK.

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