Gone are the days of internal-only communications. Every internal message is now at the risk of being shared externally, creating more pressure for communications professionals to skillfully craft statements surrounding economic, societal or company impact events (RIFs, outages, data breaches, etc.). As a result, Corporate Communications roles have never been more in demand or vital to a company’s long-term reputation.
So, why does this function still report to marketing, a department typically focused on short-term ROI? In this episode, Grace Williams, SVP of PR at BLASTmedia, makes a case for why Chief Communications Officers and other high-level corporate comms leaders should report directly to the CEO.
Marketing and comms deserve an amicable breakup
As the SVP of BLASTmedia, Grace has plenty of experience working with marketers who report to the CEO. She’s noticed a few concerning patterns with this structure.
“[Marketers squeezed by CEOs] are saying, ‘Why [comms and PR support]? What’s this going to do for me? How’s it going to drive demand?'” said Grace. “I spend a lot of time helping to educate our clients on why certain media opportunities are worthwhile and… what they will accomplish eventually.”
The fact is, communications and PR fulfill a distinctly different role from marketing — so much so that many CMOs wish they could lose their comms responsibilities.
“It’s more difficult for those CMOs because they’re constantly having to fight for the brand budget, justify their brand budget,” said Grace. “Often we’re in a situation where, even if we’re working with an SVP of marketing or CMO who believes in brand, they’re having to communicate that up the chain to maybe a CEO or founder who does not.”
“Doing more with less”
Does that heading ring a bell? If you’re a marketer, the answer is almost certainly “yes.” Over the past three years, many marketing leaders have been forced to transition from a growth-at-all-costs mindset to a demand gen and ROI-oriented approach that prioritizes results, results, results (all with fewer resources, resources, resources).
Accordingly, Grace said strategic and long-term initiatives like communications often go ignored, especially if these roles are in the marketing department.
“[In the] heyday of 2020, 2021, there was a lot of time and resources to invest into different parts of the business. And now [marketing leaders are] like, ‘okay, let’s make sure that we have our pipeline stable and we’re growing at a steady rate,” said Grace. “It’s a little bit like, ‘let’s not deal with that comms stuff over there that’s not gonna give us the results we wanna see right away.'”
According to Grace, the problem with sidelining corporate communications strategy is that it’s an excellent way to lose sight of vital long-term initiatives like crisis communications and brand perception.
The solution? Give communications leaders a little more autonomy.
CCOs wear plenty of hats
Contrary to popular belief, according to Grace, CCOs and their corresponding team can easily support all functions of the business, much like the marketing, sales and finance departments.
For example, a communications team could work with HR to craft an internal note celebrating the company’s recent wins; they could partner with marketing to highlight customer stories and draft newsletters; and they could work closely with the CEO to provide them with talking points for conferences, internal gatherings and even analyst meetings.
“The external communications piece and the executive communications piece are certainly growing in importance to an organization. People — whether that be your investors, your partners, and specifically your employees — want to hear from the leaders of your organization.
And those leaders certainly need help in making sure their messages are on point,” said Grace.
Listen to Episode 345 of SaaS Half Full for more of Grace’s insights.