As discussed in a recent CommPRO webinar by top communications executives, the role of the CCO is modernizing. It’s no longer enough for the role to be foundational, and instead, they must integrate the business and work across functions.
Last year, The Arthur W. Page Society started a podcast series titled, “The New CCO”, which “offers a first-hand look at stories from Page Society member companies and how they engage stakeholders through digital platforms”. It’s a great series and I highly recommend it to any communicators searching for industry insight. I recently listened to an episode featuring Melissa Selcher, LinkedIn’s VP for Brand, Communications, and Social Impact, who describes the importance of the Communications function at her organization. I particularly enjoyed hearing about these four topics:
Trust is Everything
Over the last couple of years due to the emergence of ‘fake news’ and the Cambridge Analytica scandal, there has been a growing distrust and skepticism among the public regarding data and social media. Now, trust is everything, and at LinkedIn, “trust is defined as consistency over time”. To maintain this trust, Selcher and her team follow specific values and decision-making rubrics which help for consistent actions and decisions time over time.
Brand and Reputation
Furthermore, Selcher explains that there are no “black and white issues,” and that everything is a “reputation issue”. Reputation management is vital to a brand’s success and it’s important to keep in mind that “anything your product team is doing, anything your sales team is doing, what your employees are doing, everything has a reputational component to it.” So, it is the Communications function’s responsibility to proactively prepare and help its teams understand what actions may show up as a headline or how to prevent a crisis. The more you spend proactively getting ahead of things, the less you’ll be reacting. More importantly, these decision rubrics should encourage responsible decision-making not only for executive leaders, but also for every employee representing the company.
Before Selcher owned Brand within her job title, she felt that brand and reputation were very distinct. However, she’s quickly realized that the two are so intertwined and “you don’t have a brand without a reputation, and everything you do on the comms and reputation side defines your brand.” She even goes as far as saying that brand is “every single touchpoint someone has with [them]”. This makes it even more important to properly train and prepare every employee to make the right decisions.
Being an Integrator Across the Business
The Cambridge Analytica scandal was a nightmare for Facebook and especially its communications team. First off, the issue was extremely complex and there were constant updates to the situation. LinkedIn, a company also dealing with a tremendous amount of user data, can learn a great deal from Facebook’s crisis and help prepare for potential issues. After following the Cambridge Analytica scandal, Selcher notes the importance of taking action and speaking early, even if you might not have perfect information. While Selcher does not directly discuss the use of data and media measurement, this enables you to quickly take control of the narrative and get in front of the curve – an invaluable capability in the PR industry. In addition, Selcher recognizes the requirement of a comms department to quickly bring the right people together and “be able to triage and make decisions and put a comms strategy in place.”
But communicators shouldn’t act as integrators only during times of crisis. While this might not be in your common job description, communicators should spend a great deal of time “connecting dots against the organization.” Selcher believes she and her team members hold a broader view than most have at the company, and that is valuable because she can ensure that “all things are moving together, and those dots are connected.” In our digital age, decisions carry enormous weight and must be made at a rapid speed. To do so, you must bring in the general council quickly, constantly form special relationships across departments, and ensure that everything is aligned.
The Future of the Comms Function
There is a continuing conversation on how the communications landscape is changing and how the function can be a strategic partner to the business. Selcher even notes that it’s not a question anymore that communications has a seat at the table, but rather, “how many tables can you sit at, in a given day?” The required talent is changing, and communications professionals need to emphasize forward thinking, agility, and authenticity. Selcher hopes that communication leaders realize how critical their role is and seize the opportunity to have an impact on their business.
To learn more about the critical role of Melissa and her team at LinkedIn, listen to the full episode below: