Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

What do C level officers do? 9: the Chief of Marketing and Communications

Posted in career development, job search, job search and career development by Timothy Platt on November 21, 2014

This is my ninth posting to a series on what C level officers of a business or organization do, that specifically emerge as job requirements for the senior leadership of an organization (see Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 3, postings 376 and following for Parts 1-8.)

Everyone communicates in any and every business, and in any organization of any type. And customer and market-facing employees at all levels on a table of organization communicate at least in part with people who are outside of the organization and they do so as its representatives.

For most of these employees (e.g. sales personnel when working with specific clients or would-be clients) this means working on and completing specific transactions and business processes. And this basic principle applies to employees and I add managers who work with supply chain partner businesses too, as fully as it does for those who work with consumers who would purchase marketable products and services offered. They all communications with the world outside of the business they work for, on behalf of that business and on a specific process and transaction-oriented level.

A Marketing or Communications, or a Marketing and Communications Department is responsible for communications that represent the business as a whole. The distinction that I draw here is important. At the same time, the distinction as to what communications should and need not belong to this department, and what would belong to others is not always so clear-cut.

• Marketing and Communications generally owns overall business branding, and the design and framing of marketing messages.
• This department sets the basic talking points that sales personnel, for example, would use in communicating the value of what their business offers, to potential customers.
• It also produces general release press statements and other public facing documents and presentations that would represent the business as a whole with its values and its message. Note that this can include presentation of content through essentially any channels that might be available, and in this context I have worked with businesses that send out fliers and in multiple languages, use billboards, offer marketing on radio and through a wide range of other media. And new channels for marketing communications are opening up all the time and particularly as interactive online capabilities proliferate.
• And in an online context this department at least editorially contributes to the business’ own website content and its sets the basic rules for replying to feedback and other interactive online content that arises in the outside community and that concerns this business.
• I note here that early generation business websites and the early online presence of a business was mostly managed and owned by that business’ information technology experts and their Information Technology Department. But as online technology matured and became more mainstreamed, focus strategically shifted within businesses from the technology level How of their going online to the With What of their being online and to the communicated messages and online content offered.
• And even before early central publishing-only Web 1.0 websites gave way to more interactive Web 2.0 and related as the online business standard, a basic shift had already largely taken place with ownership control of most business’ online presence moving from their Information Technology Department to their Marketing and Communications. And I add that basic web development technology became increasingly commoditized and competitively priced in this process, and more and more of the online technology used there began to be outsourced to specialty support businesses as a more cost-effective option, even as emphasis on content offered and on what was being communicated took center stage.
• So the Marketing and Communications department has undergone a great deal of rapid evolutionary change in recent years and the point raised in my first bullet point of this list has changed in both meaning and emphasis, and very significantly so.

With that in mind, a Chief of Marketing and Communications wears several distinct hats. They hold final arbiter role within their department in shaping and approving the flow of messages and perspectives offered through it. So they hold most-senior editorial oversight responsibilities – at least within their department, and serve to coalesce what could potentially be a diversity of voices offered from it into a single vetted voice and vision. At the same time they carry executive leadership and most senior managerial authority within their department – which is a role that essentially any other C level officer would hold for their lines in the overall table of organization. But at the same time, they need to be a team player when working with fellow executives and their departments and they play a lead role in making sure that everything coming out of their department aligns with and supports both the business as a whole, and its diverse functional areas and services. This means communicating internally within the business and keeping everyone there informed as to business-wide communications practices and policy, and business-wide message. And this means two-way communications and listening as well as speaking.

• Marketing and Communications often holds ownership oversight over the company intranet, and I add any extranets in place as well as over their business’ more publically facing internet presence.
• And the C level officer responsible for managing and leading this department has as a key responsibility, keeping the executive team and their business as whole communicating through a combination of these channels that make sense for the business, and with budget allocations for this communications effort that would yield the most positive return for every dollar spent.
• And they hold as a key responsibility, keeping the executive team and the business as a whole informed as to what feedback and other outside-sourced messages this business is receiving, and on marketing message effectiveness. And they serve as communications enablers. In that, their ownership of a business’ online communications resources means their managing consistent communications styles and approaches as other departments and services post and manage their own content and manage their own online conversations – but according to company-wide standards and branding.
• To clarify what I mean by branding here, that includes a Marketing and Communications writer’s style guide, use of that department’s approved logo images and tag lines and so on.

I began discussing the evolving nature of the executive team, and how new types of participants with new areas of direct expertise are needed there, in Part 7 and Part 8 of this series. My focus in those postings was on a new type of executive officer position that is still coming into focus for most businesses, even when it is being developed there: the Chief Security Officer. I am going to turn in my next series installment to discuss a work position that has existed in many and even most businesses of any organizational scale and complexity, and for a long time now. But this is a position that has generally been taken for granted and it is one that is usually left of out the overall decision making process; that needs to be updated for any business that would seek to be competitive in a 21st century context. It is a functional area leadership position that I would argue, should be represented in the executive team: the Director of Human Resources. I will discuss the how and why of this in my next series installment. Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings at my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 3 and at the first directory page and second, continuation page to this Guide.

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