Chief marketing officers successfully crashed the c-suite party, now it’s time to make room for the CCO.
The CMO position has become so ubiquitous that it’s easy to forget the title isn’t that old. The big three Cs—EO (chief executive officer), FO (chief financial officer), and OO (chief operating officer)—have been c-suite stalwarts since John D Rockefeller and Andrew Carnegie were swan diving into gold-coin-filled vaults back in the Gilded Age.
But marketers had to wage a hard-fought battle to prove their relevance and fight for a place among the executives who were making decisions and setting strategy. The dawn of the 21st century and the information age sped up that process, and rightly so. There’s more customer data, and more ways to interpret that data, than there are people and resources to apply it. A skilled CMO is now a requirement for helping companies navigate the uncharted oceans of insights.
At the executive table, the CMO represents the customer in relation to the product, the most important relationship a company has. A CMO must determine why customers need a company’s product and the best way to convince them they need it.
Now it’s time to add another member to the c-suite: a communicator. Make room for the CCO, or chief communications officer.
The CCO represents the company in relation to the world. Yes, I know that sounds ambitious, but hear me out. The CMO is laser focused on the audience that purchases (or could purchase) their company’s products. But as communications professionals, we know that’s not the only audience that matters. Employees, local communities, elected officials, the media, stockholders, distributors, vendors, partners, influencers … the list goes on. These audiences may not be the primary business drivers — they may not even be customers — but they can have a significant influence on whether a company is successful or not.
The CCO needs to be at the table to represent these audiences. Business decisions, big and small, should be vetted for how they’ll be interpreted by these audiences. This is the perspective a skilled communicator can bring. Not having that perspective puts a company at risk of looking tone deaf, irresponsible, or uncaring. In a time where consumers expect companies to be good corporate citizens, these are sins that can sink a company’s prospects.
And so, just as we have more data than CMOs know what to do with, we have more ways for people to interact, converse, complain, celebrate and, yes, troll a company. Every social media account has the potential to turn into a megaphone aimed at your company. Take the most recent example: Dove soap launches a tone deaf social media campaign and the outrage it generates is predictable … to everyone except Dove, apparently. Why? I don’t know the inner workings of Dove’s marketing department, but I’d guess this is an example of an advertising campaign launching without the input of a communications professional. Someone with a strong understanding of how the public might perceive this campaign should have been able to put a stop to it. It’s clear they didn’t have a communications professional at the table.
The same goes for Pepsi. Remember that weird Kendall Jenner advertisement that had her serving Pepsi with a side of world peace? Now, it’s no secret that the Jenner/Kardashian clan can sell products. They’re an advertising powerhouse in their own right. But how does this awkward mismatch make it past the cutting room floor? Again, I don’t know the inner workings of Pepsi’s marketing team, but I’d bet there wasn’t a communications professional at the table when it came time to greenlight this spot.
Mistakes like these seem to happen all too often lately. It even has some industry executives sounding the alarm. The good news is that drastic measures aren’t required to fix it. All we need to do is make a place at the table for a CCO.