PR industry trades have been whipped into a positive frenzy by news that Cigna, Visa and other Fortune 500 corporations are eliminating their chief communications officer jobs and consolidating all marcomm functions under one, global chief marketing officer.
I'm not surprised by this development at all. In fact, I predicted it would happen a year ago.
The rationale is an obvious one: Why would any cost-conscious CEO or CFO pay a seven-figure salary to both a CCO and CMO who, in their eyes at least, do more or less the same thing?
But, in their rush to analyze this phenomenon, pundits are missing the larger story: the CCO and CMO are not engaged in some sort of death struggle to see which function will ultimately survive. Rather, as Frank Eliason has so eloquently pointed out in his blogs, speeches and Tweets, we're witnessing the rise of a new C-Suite player: the chief experience officer.
As Eliason has said on numerous occasions, nothing supersedes the customer experience. All the marketing and communications in the world won't overcome a bad experience with a product, service or organization.
That's why far-sighted companies such as FedEx and Humana now have a chief customer experience officer. And, guess what? The marketing and communications functions report into the experience officer. And, that's the way it should be.
The PR industry needs a wake-up call in the worst way.
We need to stop believing that top down, inside out marketing and communications hyperbole trumps everything else.
We should stop obsessing whether the CCO can defend her turf against the CMO or if a PR firm, rather than an ad agency, should own social media.
Those are yesterday's battles.
Tomorrow's corporation will be led by a chief experience officer who, knowing all there is to know in terms of delighting her organization's multiple audiences, will then select the exact mix of online, offline, advertising, PR and experiential components needed to engage with the customer on HIS terms. And the CEO will make sure her corporation does so in an authentic, outside-in manner.
Trade journalists don't get this subtle, but seismic, shift because, frankly, they're too busy observing our industry as opposed to living it day-to-day. I do both, and I can tell you this: one day soon, we'll be reading a trade journal called Chief Experience Officer, Experience Week or The Audience Report. And, the editor and his reporters won't be hyperventilating about CCO vs. CMO battles but, rather, covering which customer experience program is most closely aligned with its communications outreach (and which communications program is most genuine in terms of the actual end user experience).
That, dear reader is the future. And, it arrived yesterday.