A recent survey by APCO Worldwide revealed that 89 percent of chief communications officers surveyed said they have direct access to the chief executive officer and 75 percent reported the CEO understands the value of their company’s reputation.
How nice. Ah, but check this out: Only 52 percent report directly to the CEO and just 26 percent said their opinions always matter when critical decisions are being made! Holy Throw Back Monday, Batman! Is this 2017 or 1917?
Ah, but there is a silver (or orange, if you prefer) lining to this otherwise bleak news.
And the orange lining is our man in the West Wing, Donald J. Trump.
I’m in the midst of conducting 30 in-depth interviews with global CCOs. My original working title for the white paper, which is being prepared exclusively for the IPR, (www.ipr.org) was “Digital, Data and Disruption.” I’ve now add a fourth D to my alliterative headline: The Donald.
Since January 20th, CCOs are telling me their CEOs are deathly afraid of being summoned to Washington, and bullied and berated before being issued an ultimatum: Keep American jobs right where they are, or else.
CEOs are even more frightened by the prospect of being personally singled out in one of Trump’s temper-tantrum Tweets. So, guess who they’re now turning to for counsel? That’s right. The good, old CCO.
And, that’s because the CCO alone commands the CEOs highest respect in times of crisis and, baby, are we ever living in times of crisis!
As a result, the CCO is being invited to join their CEOs for discussions with the new president. Sure, they may be relegated to the far side of the Potomac while Trump threatens to either impose higher corporate taxes on CEOs who won’t play ball with him or, worse, hints that he may lay-off Schwarzenegger for a day and instead insinuate the CEO is betraying the U.S. of A.
And, that’s when the CCO rises to the occasion and stands tall vis-a-vis her C-Suite colleagues.
Senior public relations strategists train their entire lives for moments of crisis (although I’ve yet to meet a single CCO who’s been taught best practices for dealing with a completely unpredictable president who may go off the rails at any second).
Regardless, the CCO is trained to calm down the CEO and soothe his battered ego. They come together as a team. And, together, they craft a carefully worded announcement highlighting key points stemming from their ‘productive’ meeting with President Trump. They pledge to work with Trump to address the issues and find a balanced win-win solution. And, then they scramble under their desks and hope he’ll re-direct his fire.
Sometimes the CorporateSpeak will placate Mr. Trump. At other times, especially after unpleasant phone calls with, say, the prime minister of Australia, the words may engender his full wrath. And, if the latter should occur, The Donald could very well shine the spotlight on the CEO and call him everything from a bad dude to a so-so CEO running a loser of an organization.
The CCOs with whom I’ve spoken now spend a good deal of time scenario planning for either defending nuclear attacks from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, countering completely fake news or both.
And, while they may be working 24×7 to wordsmith various responses, many CCOs are smiling inside. And, that’s because they’re meeting, face-to-face with the CEO and their marketing peers and handling such critical business decisions as whether to double down on the corporation’s promise to create and support open, diverse and inclusive workplaces or, instead, capitalize on the America First frenzy by citing their organization’s countless contributions to our country.
Needless to say, the CCOs ethical and moral compass is being tested in ways never thought imaginable only a few months ago. But, hey, look at the bright side: As long as Trump is ensconced in the Oval Office, the CCO really WILL enjoy a seat at the table.
Suddenly, CCO’s matter very, very much. One might even call them the new orange.