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Recruitment Trends Career Development

The Underrepresented CCO: Time for a Seat at the Boardroom

20 June 2023 by Max Forsyth


The CCO's Silent Absence

In the corridors of corporate power, the 'C' roles dominate boardroom discourse. The CEO, CFO, COO, and, increasingly, the CMO are commonplace at the round table where the business strategy is forged. However, the Chief Communications Officer (CCO) is often conspicuously missing, creating a glaring gap in the architecture of board leadership. This has become increasingly problematic, especially in the face of challenges brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. The need for expert communication navigation has never been so pronounced, yet the representation at the board level remains stiflingly minimal.

The Critical Value of Communications

One cannot underestimate the significance of communication in a modern, globalised world, particularly when navigating crises like the pandemic. Companies that have weathered the storm can attribute much of their resilience to robust communication strategies. When CEOs needed to reassure anxious stakeholders, the communications team worked diligently behind the scenes, crafting messages of reassurance or communicating necessary adjustments in business operations.

The truth is a good CCO does more than manage PR crises. They are the custodians of a company's narrative, shaping its public image and internal culture. They establish meaningful connections with customers, employees, regulators, investors and the media, ensuring the business's ethos is consistently reflected in its communications. They build bridges where there may be walls and smooth paths where there may be obstacles.

CCO as a Strategic Ally

And yet, despite the critical importance of their role, CCOs are woefully underrepresented on company boards. One might wonder why. Is it a lack of understanding on the part of CFOs and COOs? Or perhaps it's the perceived threat to 'rival' positions like the CMO? The fact remains the strategic role of a CCO is undervalued, and it is high time we remedy this oversight.

Similarly, CMOs should not view CCOs as a threat but as valuable allies. Both roles revolve around influencing public perception. However, while a CMO focuses on marketing the company's products or services, the CCO's role is more holistic, ensuring alignment between its actions, messaging, and stated values. They are two sides of the same coin, complementing each other's work, and their cooperation can only enhance the company's image and reputation.

Recruiters: The CCO's Advocates

However, acknowledging the value of the CCO is only the first step. Recruiters, including firms such as Comms Search & Selection, are crucial in placing more CCOs on boards. They can help demystify the part of the CCO, showcasing their value in tangible terms to other senior executives. In their dealings with CFOs, COOs, and CMOs, recruiters can champion the cause of CCOs by highlighting their problem-solving capabilities, ability to navigate crises, and role in driving brand reputation.

The CCO's Role in Self-Promotion

But what can aspiring CCOs do to advocate for their elevation? First, they must continue delivering excellent work and demonstrating their value in their current roles. They should focus on building relationships with key stakeholders and influencing decision-making, thus increasing their visibility within the organisation.

Second, they should seek out mentorship and sponsorship within their organisation. A high-level advocate can significantly increase one's chances of being considered for board-level appointments.

Third, they should actively communicate their ambition and willingness to take on more responsibility. This can involve engaging in strategic projects beyond their usual scope, volunteering for leadership roles in internal initiatives, or actively seeking professional development opportunities.

A New Dawn for the CCO

The time is ripe for re-evaluating the CCO's role in the boardroom. Their exclusion is not just a loss for the entire company. The need for astute communication strategy will only grow as the business world grows more complex.

Recognising this, and giving CCOs a seat at the boardroom table, should not be a matter of contention but a natural progression of corporate governance.

The corporate world prides itself on innovation and adaptation. So, let's adapt. Let's innovate. Let's put more CCOs on our boards and witness the transformation they can usher in. After all, in the age of connectivity, communication is king, and the CCO is its prime minister. It's time we recognised this in our boardrooms.

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​Comms Search & Selection specialises in executive search and recruitment for the in-house communications industry, serving clients in the UK and the USA. We expertly fill roles from Manager to C-Suite in corporate communications, public relations, internal communications, digital transformation, investor relations, and content strategy. Catering to diverse sectors, including Fortune 500 and FTSE 250 companies and financial and professional services firms, we're the go-to search and recruitment agency for seeking top communications talent. Contact us to secure the industry's best.