If you are a chief communications officer (CCO), your job has changed significantly, and you need to be aware of it. That is a key finding in a recent Korn/Ferry survey that asked CCOs to identify what areas of focus are commanding more attention and effort.
As expected, nearly 85 percent said they were being asked to provide leadership on reputation, value and culture. Not nearly as expected, one in two respondents said they were being asked to define and activate “corporate character.”
Abraham Lincoln once said, “Character is like a tree and reputation like a shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing.” How appropriate for every CCO to consider, given their changing role.
Most CCOs began their careers, entering what was known as the field of reputation management. That career moniker suggests that with effort, one might manage “a shadow” and create opportunity for it to appear somewhat different than reality.
As the world has changed, perhaps the profession has finally caught up with the insight offered by President Lincoln. Today’s transparency, interconnectedness and sleepless media cycles shed harsh light on character, and ensure reputation is the composite of what you do and how you chose to do it – not how you attempt to manage it.
For the new stewards of corporate character, the “how” has become as important as the “what.” And the opportunity to be successful in this evolving role is tied to the ability of today’s communications officers to show up differently.
Leading CCOs must not only drive communications, but also lead ongoing education of their executives on the changing communications landscape, the Diamond of Influence and the implications for reputation. They must determine corporate positioning while investigating questionable behavior and serving as a voice of conscience in decision making. They must ensure internal communications are managed while concurrently unleashing the power of their employees – one of the most crucial reputation assets for the enterprise. They must manage confidential data and corporate strategy while maintaining the transparency of the enterprise.
Without doubt, the role of CCO is forever changed, just as the words of our former president have never rung more true.