CCO group Page studies the evolution of ‘commtech’ and the quest to shape corporate culture

Arthur W. Page Society CCOs Commtech
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After undertaking the deepest and most global research into the perspectives and actions of the world’s leading chief communications officers, an association known as Page is preparing to build upon its findings with a microsite, case studies and courses to learn how to act on them.

Originally known as the Arthur W. Page Society, New York-based Page recently published its report, The CCO as Pacesetter: What It Means, Why It Matters, How To Get There. The research is based on conversations with more than 200 senior communications leaders around the world and a survey of 170 others who talked about the role and its evolution within the enterprise.

Among the opportunities and challenges in the 60-page report is a look at the rise of what Page calls “CommTech,” or the emergence of digital tools to assist CCOs and those on PR teams in much the same way that martech has come to influence the way CMOs and their teams operate. 

Page president Roger Bolton said that while martech has become commonly accepted among its intended audience, the world of CCOs is still early in its adoption of products and services that would automate much of their day-today processes. 

“We found a few who are really diving in head first and using it in remarkable and interesting ways,” Bolton told B2B News Network. “There were others who know they should be doing it and want to, but may not sure what to do beyond the relatively common areas of content creation and social listening. Then there’s a large group who are sort of saying, ‘Do we have to?’”

This is one of the reasons Page is evolving from its roots as a peer networking group to more of a learning organization to help CCOs ensure they maintain a relevant position at the senior leadership table and that they can better execute on what matters to their organizations.

The challenge, Bolton said, is that CCOs don’t necessarily need to become technology experts, but need to know enough to have the right teams and third parties in place. Otherwise, some elements of PR and corporate communications become more intangible in terms of the value they offer a company.

“You can get coverage in the media, but you don’t know if (customers) read it or not, or if they took any action,” he said, adding that reputation research remains one of the standard ways of showcasing the results of what corp comms teams accomplish.  “We think that commtech is the next step because it goes more from measurement of sentiment and likelihood to act, to knowing down to the individual level who is acting and what is helping them along a journey to action.”

Bolton, whose track record in senior comms roles includes the U.S. Treasury, IBM and insurance firm Aetna, noted that one of the other shifts for CCOs is a reliance on courting traditional journalists to connecting more directly with the public through digital and other channels.

“When I was at IBM as head of global media relations, that was one of the primo jobs. Media relations was the king of the hill,” he recalled. “We used to have to rely on the fourth estate to reach most our of stakeholders. We had three full time reporters form the (Wall Street) Journal (covering) IBM. That’s unheard of today. Now we reach them through channels we own.”

CCOs that feel uneasy about skilling up on tech and focusing more on owned media might take heard on another area outlined in the Page report: 56 per cent of those surveyed say they are responsible for corporate brand management, and scaling and perpetuating a distinctive culture is a key area of focus. This can often mean partnering with the head of HR and the CEO to define what culture is or should be, and how that can be manifested across brand and corp comms activities. It’s a natural fit for CCOs that are ready to step up, Bolton said.

“CEOs say the single biggest obstacle is getting people to understand and change, oftentimes in the middle of disruption and turmoil,” he said. “Transformations within organizations and industries used to happen over the course of a generation. Now it’s an ongoing way of life.”

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Shane Schick is the Editor-in-Chief of B2B News Network. He is the former Editor-in-Chief of Marketing magazine and has also been Vice-President, Content & Community (Editor-in-Chief), at IT World Canada, a technology columnist with the Globe and Mail and was the founding editor of ITBusiness.ca. Shane has been recognized for journalistic excellence by the Canadian Advanced Technology Alliance and the Canadian Online Publishing Awards.