Independent Thinking Blog

Even Enlightened CEOs Don’t Get It

I was reading The View From the Top,* a recent report from the IABC Research Foundation. Researchers interviewed 20 CEOs about the role of corporate communications. What I like about the report–and IABC–is the global perspective. These CEOs run companies in Peru, South Africa, the Philippines, India, Hong Kong, Australia, and the UK, as well as in the U.S. and Canada.

Much of the report covers what you’d expect. The CEOs cited growth in uncertain economic times, adapting to change, attracting and retaining employees, and communication as their top business challenges.

Did I mention that the research reflects the opinions of only 20 people? Since they agreed to be interviewed, it’s probably safe to assume that these CEOs already place value on the communications function within their organizations. Indeed, the report says:

Senior executives believe corporate communication is a core competency that plays a critical role in supporting business strategy. All study participants viewed communication as a key component to both their organization’s overall success in the marketplace and to their individual effectiveness as leaders.


Unfortunately, however, even enlightened CEOs don’t get it.

I was skimming along until I hit the chapter on the role of communications professionals within the organization. That’s what I read this:

The primary responsibility of communication professionals is to help identify who needs to be informed, how they should be informed and who should inform them. Most of the time, important messages should come from “the top” or the CEO/president/managing director… Ultimately, a communication professional plays a key role by assisting the senior executive in finding the best forums in which to communicate, crafting messages and keeping them simple, and ultimately getting the maximum value out of the communication effort.


Is it just me, or does this sound like your senior communications staff have been reduced to picking and executing tactics? Whatever happened to strategy and counsel?

I wrote a blog post a couple years ago suggesting that too many marketing communications pros don’t define themselves (or act) like business people. Which means communications isn’t perceived as a core business function.

To be fair, I’m not sure whether the problem in this study lies in the perceptions of the CEOs or in the questions they were asked. Either way, it’s a troubling picture.

Your thoughts?

*The research report is available for free to IABC members.

Photo by 416style (Flickr).

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