Every company needs an effective strategy to communicate its value proposition to customers, investors, and other stakeholders. This work is often led by a chief communications officer (CCO): a high-level executive who is tasked with conveying brand messaging via marketing and advertising, public relations, and even crisis management functions.
For those who have a passion for messaging and modern media, the role of a chief communications officer can be a rewarding way to impact a company’s public image and, ultimately, its bottom line. Success in this position requires the cultivation of numerous skills and core competencies, many of which can be achieved through an advanced business education.
Job Description of a Chief Communications Officer
Fundamentally, the role of a chief communications officer is to oversee the lines of communication between an organization and the public. These channels can encompass everything from social media and advertising to press releases and public statements.
A CCO typically directs all the processes and procedures involved with communicating to the public—developing messaging, writing content, delivering speeches, and generating company talking points for other members of business leadership to reference. In some situations, the role may also govern internal communications, such as employee newsletters and company intranet.
What Does a Chief Communications Officer Do?
While a CCO’s role and responsibilities may vary from one organization to the next, some of the most common duties include the following:
- Develop public relations benchmarks and goals.
- Create public relations strategies.
- Develop and publish informational or brand-enhancing content.
- Foster relationships with members of the media and investors.
- Help coordinate public events.
- Deliver speeches or write speeches for other executives.
- Create policies for social media and manage published content.
- Outline goals and messaging requirements for advertisements.
- Oversee staffing as well as the budgets of the communications and marketing teams.
- Promote corporate social responsibility.
Preparing for the Role
Success as a CCO requires proficiency in communication as well as skills such as leadership, organization, and delegation. Aspiring chief communications officers can develop these skills by gaining experience in other communications roles, including positions in marketing, advertising, management, and publicity. Social media management positions can also help prepare professionals for executive-level communications roles.
How Has the Role of a Chief Communications Officer Changed?
The role of business communications has changed considerably in recent decades, with major implications for leaders in the field.
While communications has historically been placed under the marketing umbrella, the role of communications in an organization has evolved into a broader concern that ties into an organization’s brand and messaging. Marketing, though closely tied to communications, is primarily concerned with making short-term gains, drawing customers into the sales pipeline where they might be converted into paying customers.
Communications is increasingly focused on more long-term goals, such as building customer loyalty by telling the brand story, establishing thought leadership, and improving brand awareness across the board. This changing dynamic is in large part due to changing consumer habits, as well as advances in technology. It’s easier than ever for customers to do their homework and compare different brands, meaning short-term marketing isn’t always sufficient for gaining trust or for managing an organization’s brand story. Winning over customers in the long run requires companies to carefully and consistently demonstrate their value and expertise.
These changes have led to an increased demand for chief communications officers: professionals who oversee marketing activity but who are also interested in developing the big-picture brand identity.
Challenges Facing Communications Executives
As the field continues to evolve, today’s communications executives can anticipate several looming obstacles and challenges. Some of these concerns include:
- Economic uncertainties
- Geopolitical unease
- Issues with employee engagement, workforce development, talent acquisition, and the changing nature of work
- Changing consumer expectations regarding sustainability and corporate responsibility
- Issues related to trust, misinformation, inclusiveness, and polarization
Managing an organization’s messaging around these issues often falls on the CCO, and how they address them will be critical to fashioning a positive public image.
Chief Communications Officer Salary
A typical chief communications officer’s salary reflects their position as a member of the C-suite. Additionally, compensation is generally high given the position’s immense responsibility.
According to Payscale data from April 2023, the median annual salary for CCOs is around $140,340. Meanwhile, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) notes a median annual salary of $98,980 for top business executives.
Several factors can affect compensation, including years of experience, level of education, and geographic location.
Make Your Way to the C-Suite with an MBA
Careful and strategic communication is increasingly pivotal to all organizations. Those who desire to play a direct role in shaping corporate communication strategies might thrive in the chief communications officer position. A good way to prepare for this role is to pursue advanced training in the field of business leadership, such as through the Online Master of Business Administration program at Washington State University.
In this program, students can prepare for a range of career paths by pursuing one of several concentrations, including finance, international business, and marketing. The curriculum is designed to equip students with a comprehensive skill set that can be adapted to numerous roles, including communications positions. Find out more about the potential of this unique degree program today.