The role of the Chief Communications Officer and the communications function is changing rapidly. Communications has been elevated to a proactive function that is increasingly providing value across the organization. This topic was discussed in a recent CommPRO webinar by top communications executives. Here are 5 ways the communications function is changing:

You Need to Be a Business Person

You may have turned to communications because you weren’t a math person, but gone are the days where communicators can shy away from understanding broader business numbers. The next generation of CCOs are using business data to earn themselves a seat at the decision-making table.

Bill Price, VP of Communications at Zoetis, explained that having that clear line of strategy across the business is essential to achieving goals. But to play the game, you must speak the language. David Chamberlain, former VP of Corporate Communications at PNC, adds that “we have to be business people who are communications experts, that are socially engaged.” He adds that “what I mean by business people, is that we’ve first got to be able to have a discussion about the business on the businesses’ terms, not just as a communications expert, for us to be able to move with them”.

CCOs Must Align Comms to the Business through Data-Driven Strategies

All-star communication teams are characterized by a close alignment of communication targets and business goals. However, current metrics commonly employed by PR teams fail to live up to modern standards.

David Chamberlain adds: “How we take in all that data and make sense of it and turn it into the insights that are actually actionable, to me, is something that most communications teams that I’ve seen struggle with …But as our social media and our traditional media evolve and new forms of media give us greater ability to measure and see analytics, I think that this type of interpretation and insight is probably going to be one of the critical skills that we all need to develop and strengthen going forward.”

Far too many departments are still struggling to understand data, let alone capture accurate metrics around tone, share of voice, or brand reputation. Next generation CCOs and their departments need to show their impact on business goals and the key is to tame the data wilderness by focusing on harnessing it for actionable insights.

Leads Must Modernize and Keep Up with the Times due to the Competitive Landscape

According to Arthur Page Society, the environment in which enterprises operate is fraught with emergent challenges from new competitors reinventing traditional business models to new modes of work, regulatory and socioeconomic factors. This has transformed how individuals communicate with one another and engage more actively with organizations.

Communicators are responsible for keeping pace with these times and advising their senior leaders on how to keep up. The communicator of the future harnesses media intelligence to understand their market and share findings with other parts of the organization like the C-Suite, IR, marketing and product development.

CEO of Strategic Profiles Management, Graeme Harris echoed this when he explained that during his past tenure as SVP of Communications at Manulife, it was his job to track key technological innovations. He added that this was essential information to help advise the senior executives on how their institution was keeping pace with the industry.

The Communications Function is Breaking Down Silos and Elevating itself

Communications leaders must communicate both internally – bringing together data and, externally – bringing voices from across the entire organization.

In many organizations such as PNC, communications is playing the role of breaking down organizational silos. For instance, David Chamberlain has taken the role of not just reporting on his team, but also sharing the results of the entire organization across the board. He adds that playing this new role as an integrator within his organization “has helped give Corporate Comms a halo, not only as an integrator, but as a strategic player and someone that people want to involve.”

Strategic Planning is a Much More Integrated Process

In addition to serving as a corporate integrator, communications itself has expanded tactically. Bill Price recounts “I can remember years ago when you developed communications plans and social media was an add-on at the end, or it was all about the press release…the way we approach everything now is much more integrated.”

Today, modern communications plans often encompass a mass array of tactical plans from media relations, to digital communications and even customer engagement. With all these different activities, teams need to find a way to pull in different sources of data from traditional and social media and measure them in a consistent matter that tracks your impact on the bottom line: specifically, quantifying brand reputation and impact on corporate goals.

For more executive insights on staying relevant as a communicator and the evolution of the communications function watch our CommPRO Webinar: How to Stay Relevant in 2020

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