Meet the Chief Purpose Officer – the Communications Director 2.0

One of the most inspiring panel discussions at the European Communication Summit was the Reassessing the role of communication and the required skill set of the modern CCO.

Changes across multiple areas in the organization, including the needs and habits of its stakeholders, the media landscape, external factors, structure changes and the increasing competition suggest the company’s core management roles need to be adapted and be responsive to the dynamics of transformations.

The panelists in the session were Ingo Heijnen, Senior Vice President Operations Europe at Hill+Knowlton Strategies, Continental Europe, Stefan Nerpin, SVP, Marketing, Communications & Public Affairs at Volvo Bus Corporation , Gizem Weggemans, Chief Communications Officer Practice Group Leader at Egon Zehnder International and Christoph Bornschein, Gründer & Geschäftsführer at Torben, Lucie und die geibe Gefahr GmbH. 

Their discussion aimed to answer a number of important questions:

  • Which demands do successful communicators have to fulfill in terms of implementing digitalization, agile structures and integrated communication?
  • In which ways can and must they collaborate with other departments?
  • What is the role of communication in the economic transformation process?
  • Which leadership, business and technological skills does the modern CCO-position require?

Gizem Weggemans highlighted that as organizations are becoming agile, functions also need to become agile. She supported one of the key points raised by Stefan Nerpin that there are a number of functions merged in the one of the Communications Director – public affairs, marketing communications and HR.

Communications Directors have to shift their focus to purpose - they and organizations should be seeking their purpose internally and externally, listening to their stakeholders. CEOs now want to be purposeful leaders. Ingo Heijnen added that many CEOs still miss people in their teams who have the ability to think about purpose.

He also stated that communications professionals are still very focused on functions, which doesn’t give them a seat at the decision-making table. Communications professionals should stop looking at digital functions only.

Instead of functions, they should be shifting their focus on understanding the big picture, what is happening with the stakeholders and take this insight to the board as a trusted advisor, capable of supporting the strategy shaping and transformation processes.

Stefan Nerpin added that the role is merging in itself the change manager and the business integrator. Whether it is business transformation and HR, research & development and mobility, innovation and digital platforms, risk management and legal procedures, the need for narrative is needed  in order to make the change.

Dr Babanin summarizes: “We cannot have a peer conversation until we do not let go the „in service of“-attitude”.