The Evolving Chief Communications Officer: What Are They and Do You Need One?
As companies have expanded their marketing efforts to the digital space, it has become more important than ever to create a unified communications strategy. Prospects and customers should see a consistent voice wherever they see your brand – whether that’s on a billboard, in an email, or in an ad on LinkedIn.
But how do you ensure that your brand voice is consistent externally and internally? How do you make sure your values are clear to both your customers and your employees?
Enter the chief communications officer. Chief communications officers, or CCOs, are a relatively new addition to the business landscape. They act as guardians of company culture, values, and beliefs. They work tirelessly to ensure these beliefs are visible and consistent across external marketing channels, as well as internally amongst employees.
Is this a role your business has already filled? If not, should you consider hiring a chief communications officer to improve communications? In this blog I will explore the evolving role of the chief communications officer and whether or not your organization needs one.
Chief Communications Officers: What They Do
Obvious from the name, CCOs are not junior-level employees. CCOs usually have years of experience in corporate communications, leading teams in marketing, sales, public relations, and other areas.
CCOs believe that companies need to aggressively and proactively manage their brand narrative in a digital ecosystem where organizations lack control of how they’re talked about online.
CCOs are bold, and unafraid of advocating for company culture and values. These individuals act as spokespeople and advisors to their CEOs, consistently advocating for improvements in communications. According to the Korn Ferry Institute, 37% of CCOs report to the CEO, while 12% report to a CMO.
But CCOs work on external areas as well – 25% of CCOs also manage external digital marketing, such as social media.
When You Need a Chief Communications Officer
All businesses will benefit from a CCO, but do you need one right now? Here are some signs that you should consider hiring one:
- Your business is growing, and you need to scale. It is exciting when a business grows, but with success comes growing pains. As a company grows, you’ll need to ensure that new hires are briefed on communications, and that there is a standardized message shared across the organization. This is where a CCO can really help.
- You are having trouble keeping your message consistent. When a customer visits your website, do they have the same experience as they do when they call you on the phone? No matter where customers find you, you want your message to be consistent. A CCO can help you determine how to talk about the business across different channels.
- Your employees have different ways of talking about the business. If you find that your sales team talks about business differently from your marketing team, then you have a messaging problem. A CCO can help get everyone on the same page, aligning communication across the entire organization.
When a Chief Communications Officer Isn’t Necessary
Even though all businesses can benefit from a CCO, it’s not always necessary. Here are some times when you may be able to hold off on hiring someone to manage communications:
- You are still small. Small businesses and startups usually don’t need CCOs, unless they’re undergoing a large PR push. When a business doesn’t have many people, it’s easier to communicate with your team.
- You have a leader (a CMO or CEO) invested in communications. Sometimes there is someone in the C-Suite who is heavily invested in the areas that a CCO would pay attention to. In these circumstances, you may not need a CCO. As long as there is someone actively managing internal and external messaging, you should be able to create consistent messaging in your organization.
Even if you don’t have a chief communications officer, it is still a good idea to get your communications strategy down on paper. Creating standardized guidelines can be helpful for any team member who needs to communicate with a customer or another employee.
The Evolving Importance of the Chief Communication Officer
Today’s companies have a presence on a multitude of channels. There are email lists, various social media channels, as well as websites, review sites, and much more. Consumers have come to expect a consistent presence when they engage with a brand. They expect a human touch, a quick response, and someone that is well informed.
But internally, these challenges exist as well. How can you communicate your values, goals, and initiatives to your employees to ensure they are all on the same page? Each company’s digital footprint, internal and external, needs to be managed, and a COO can help, when the time is right.