CommonSense Blog

A View from the C-Suite

By Gary Grates | Oct 04, 2013

Recent Page Conference and Report Cites Perceptions of CEOs and CCOs on Reputation, Social Media, Marketing, Communications

The recently concluded Conference of the Arthur W. Page Society, which included the release of a new Page study – “The CEO View…Impact of Communications on Corporate Character” – reveals how corporate leaders today are viewing reputation, strategy social media, and communications. The study, based on interviews with CEOs and Chief Communications Officers (CCOs) representing a cross-section of global organizations, follows up on a similar survey conducted six years ago.

The Society’s bi-annual meeting was held earlier this week where the study was presented and discussed in detail. The presentation, along with several outside speakers and side conversations during lunch and dinner breaks, zeroed in on several key trends and insights around communications and its increasingly critical role in the corporate world. Following are five that were particularly noteworthy:

Succeeding in a Social World

Corporate leadership was slow to get on board the social media bandwagon, but now recognizes the clear advantage they bring to the business and their role as major components of business strategies. What is apparent to leaders now is that social media are important because of immediacy – i.e., immediacy that enhances the ability to anticipate and respond quickly to unfolding crises, as well as sense and respond to our target audiences’ changing temperaments and attitudes.

This latter point was summed up as challenge to CCOs in that they need to be make sure organizations are prepared far in advance for any potential issue or crisis so the business can respond in a timely manner.

It was noted that 24 years ago it took information about 24 hours to flow through media to consumers; 10 years ago that had dropped to 10 hours; and today 4 minutes!

Social media are immune to time and distance. Leveraging and maximizing conversations to gain advantage is now a CEO priority. Further, CEOs are becoming more comfortable with leading and communicating in a social manner thus experiencing how communities and audiences are interacting with the company, product and brand(s).

Message segmentation is dead

Given the above, CEOs recognize all stakeholders receive information simultaneously and often wear several hats so to speak. Employees can be customers and stockholders, too, while also producing and supporting the goods and services that feed the company’s revenues and bolster its profits. Message consistency across platforms and audiences is imperative and non-negotiable, and messages cannot conflict with one another from one space to another because eventually, all stakeholders see everything and can readily identify and see through any contradictions. In today’s ultra-connected world and media’s 24/7 ubiquity, that fact has never been truer.

The game as CEOs and CCOs see it today is around a corporate Narrative.  A Narrative that allows for each segment to understand and assimilate meaning based on their perspectives. A Narrative that is informed by insights and information gleaned from multiple external and internal sources.

Data = Insights that improve knowledge, strengthen engagement, accelerate innovation

Big Data is now a full-fledged occupant of the C-Suite.

In a number of different ways, senior corporate leaders today expect hard data from a number of internal and external sources to enhance their understanding of the business and help guide their decision-making.

However, it’s not just the data alone that they crave. Rather, it is the insights that the data unmask that bring out data’s true value. Distilling insights from hard data requires deep knowledge of the business, its challenges and opportunities, and the environment in which it operates.

Insights drawn from data can improve the working knowledge of the business for leadership, managers, and employees alike. Insights develop stronger engagement, and foster innovation throughout the enterprise by connecting our work to how the business needs to evolve in order to thrive in a changing world, in anticipation of tomorrow’s challenges and opportunities.

Do We Need to Tell Our Story Better?  or Do We Need a Better Story to Tell?

With the benefit of analytics and data, CEOs in this study expressed the opportunity to rethink and refresh how their organizations are conducting business in a globally complex, challenging environment.   The challenge for CCOs is moving from messaging to influencing policy, decision-making, and engagement.  In effect, to improve the organization’s position both competitively and reputationally.  To do so, a greater amount of time must be spent on comprehending the business and the impact social commerce and technology is having on it and focusing content to be more provocative (as opposed to declarative), more actionable (versus just thoughtful) and more engaging (as opposed to consuming).

Adopting New Language – Purpose

Finally, it was acknowledged that organizations need to view themselves through the lens of purpose not mission or product…for it is purpose that drives emotion and engagement.

Nestle     Food and Beverage           Nutrition

Nike        Footwear                             Health and Fitness

 

The Arthur W. Page Society is a membership organization for senior public relations and corporate communications executives.