Thursday, April 18, 2024

Chief communications officers vs. ‘the dinosaurs’

This article originally appeared in our newsletter, the B2B Briefing, which comes out every two weeks and focuses on a specific monthly theme. Sign up to get more of this kind of content before anyone else. 
A lot of PR people I know tend to have impeccable manners and can deal diplomatically with the most undiplomatic people. It must be wonderful, occasionally, to have the freedom of anonymous survey to really let loose and say how they really feel.
Rather than rant and rave about journalists, however (which I would completely understand), the biggest criticism in a recently published survey from Boston University and PR Week was aimed at chief communications officers’ bosses. Comments in the survey were scathing about the way C-Suite executives micromanaged them, even as they showed how out of touch they were on so many things:

Comments ranged from “Dinosaurs in the board” and “Dinosaurs running it” to “Executive leadership is tone deaf to the realities of the organization from a PR/comms perspective.” Another said: “The people making the decisions in my organization don’t match the demographics of those creating or calling for external change.”

PR practitioners see their role as bringing authenticity and transparency to enterprises, being the voice of ethics and creating narratives for the organization — they ranked 4.60, 4.01 and 4.59 in terms of importance on a 5-point scale, with 5 being very successful.

Though it wasn’t mentioned until later (what we often call “burying the lede” in the media), the survey showed that PR execs found a lot of their passion in helping articulate the sense of purpose and meaning behind a brand’s activities. There was also a strong correlation between a tighter integration between marketing and PR and the extent to which PR is valued in the organization overall.
Of course, if the two departments become too integrated it may call into question the need for a chief communications officer at all. PR is not quite the same thing as marketing communications, demand gen, inbound or customer marketing. It’s also more than “getting a media hit” or “cleaning up the mess” when bad news hits.
CCOs are a particular kind of storyteller who speak through others, including the media but also their subject matter experts, and even the boss. Like it or not, they may have to learn how to speak “dinosaur” if they want some of their most important stories to be heard.


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Shane Schick
Shane Schick
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 Shane has been recognized for journalistic excellence by the Canadian Advanced Technology Alliance and the Canadian Online Publishing Awards.