VMA GROUP’s most significant research to date shows that CEOs now consider corporate reputation to be the cornerstone of the modern organisation. As a result, they want to see communications directors step up to the leadership mantle more so than ever before.
Between May and August 2016, VMA GROUP conducted 40 in-depth interviews with CEOs across Europe to establish their view of communications’ role within leadership and reputation. To offer the most comprehensive picture, the CEOs interviewed for Beyond Communications: A CEO perspective of reputation leadership ranged from leaders of small trade organisations to those of multinational companies. The findings were a resounding affirmation that, in the modern business arena, the communications director has a far broader task on their hands than their predecessors did in years gone by. Whilst the day-to-day skillset of the profession remains vital, those interviewed stressed the importance of a new approach and philosophy altogether.
In this “digital, on-demand, consumer-led” business landscape, the way in which organisations talk to their stakeholders has changed; businesses have become culturally and commercially anchored to the open forum of public conversation. For a company to survive in this highly influential, polyphonic, digital era, where a business is synonymous with its brand, company strategy must be informed by its communications director. The report went so far as to explicate the need for “a willingness to look out across the business horizon as a true leader does; a willingness even to be the shadow-outline of the CEO themselves.”
The CEOs interviewed made it clear: communications can no longer be viewed as a support function. It must be part of the leadership framework. Whilst some of those interviewed advised caution in positioning a comms director at Board-level (they argued their “value … lay in their ability to offer an external perspective”), all were in concurrence that the communications director should at the very least be involved in strategy formation.
Julia Meighan, Chief Executive at VMA GROUP, said:
“At VMA GROUP we know that the very best in the profession are doing exactly what CEOs demand. Most communications directors already keenly feel, perhaps even actively embrace, the challenges this report raises. Many have recognised that the role has changed and have been attempting to exploit that. However, even these first-class communicators are often struggling when they are no longer being asked to ‘do more with less,’ they are being asked to do differently – smarter, sharper, bolder, far wider – with no more resources than in the old, analogue age.”
The CEOs’ comments – piercing though they often may be – reflect both the evolution of the industry and the future potential in corporate communications. CEOs were often exuberant advocates for everything skilled communicators can achieve. All predicted that the function would become even more central to their businesses in the coming years. VMA GROUP encourages the debate that this report will provoke. We urge communications directors not to fear such critiques, but to digest and question them. Can they be seen as a blueprint for taking the industry forward or are they a reflection of the education that communications professionals themselves have driven within business?
To talk to one of our team about this ground breaking study, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.