Using Digital Transformation to Accelerate Communications

Bob Pearson Headshot


Article By Bob Pearson

The author is an adviser to lternal Technologies, Inc., an SaaS company that is transforming the way organizations share, consume, interact with and experience information. Pearson is an industry thought leader in marketing and communications. Prior to joining Iternal, Pearson was VP of Communities and Conversations at Dell to develop the Fortune 500’s first global social media function—an industry-leading approach to the use of social media.  Head of Global Corporate & Pharma Comms at Novartis Pharmaceuticals. Author and frequent speaker he has written five books, including PreCommerce, Storytizing, and Countering Hate.

Inside the Mind of the Chief Communications Officer (CCO)

The CCO’s responsibilities involve how to understand, protect and promote all aspects of a company, which is why they are a center point for us to reach.

Those of us who have been CCO’s view our job as including the following:

We are responsible for the entire narrative of the company.  We achieve this goal by focusing on the strategic messaging of the company and its divisions, external and internal; the spokespeople we allow to speak publicly; and the decisions made related to where/when/how we tell our story.

We serve the C-Suite to ensure the voice of the CEO and the greater leadership team is effective in how they reach all audiences.

We are continually protecting the brand reputation of the company via issues management techniques that are often never known to the public.

We are zealots in ensuring that what we say publicly matches what we tell the Street.

In the midst of all this, we may have a team launching a new product, while another is developing an internal communications plan for manufacturing, while reporters are digging into an issue and we are ensuring the CEO’s next speech is A+.  As an example, when I was at Novartis, I had a team of 340 people across the globe.  It is a never-ending job to think of how to spend your time correctly to optimize results.

So, what’s inside the mind of a CCO when we’re talking with them?  Here’s what I remember and continue to see to this day in colleagues.

How will we ensure that our messaging is current across the world?  I don’t have time to approve everything nor does my team, but I want a system that can aid us in keeping messaging on track and telling us when it is off-track.

How do we ensure content is approved and truly ready to be shared?

How do we age out content once it is no longer current/viable?

How do I quickly create the content I need in a crisis/issue?

I have Q&As for every issue you can imagine.  How I could more effectively prepare our messages for issues, so we can go from Q&A writing to a more agile system?

How do we create more content and not break the bank?

When is someone going to build an image/video/content library for CCOs?  We’re tired of hearing about the next DAM for marketing.

We have all of these speeches and other collateral we create for events?  How could we leverage key content?  No one has time to do this, so it never happens.  What a waste.

How can I get my shared media team to have agile content to share on social channels, so one person can scale their efforts across the globe?

How could I do this same effort during an issue so we are the most proactive company when we want to be?

Will our approval system work well in getting content approved for your system?  And what happens to approval of content if we are recreating new agile content?  Is the intent the same?  How can we prove it?

Is there a system that can show what we put out internally and externally that can match up vs. our strategic goals and messages and tell me where we need to place more effort and why?

That’s a start on what is inside the mind of a CCO.  Now, let’s also discuss their initial view of any new platform they are asked to review.  Our minds think like this.

Why do I need to see this new platform?  A team member becomes intrigued and comes to see me as I am thinking about five things at once….my response?  Headline it….what does it do?  Why do we care?  That’s what I would ask our team.  Tell me why…and if not super clear, pass.  Why pass?  Because we have a few vendors per day trying to break in.  We know most waste our time and our time is our most precious asset.

When we meet, we want to hear how we can get our problems solved.  Other than basic pleasantries, we don’t want to hear a long story on your firm.  Just don’t have time and to be candid, we don’t care, at least right now.  Would prefer to get right into what you do, how it helps us and we’ll learn more about you as time goes on.  If we are future partners, we have plenty of time to bond.

When we listen to solutions, if we don’t hear answers to our problems, we know you don’t know our world, so we start tuning out.  We remain polite….but nothing happens in follow-up.

If you come in through someone higher up the food chain, we are wary.  Now, it may be political (or not) depending on who it came in from…..nothing good or bad, just reality, so we are more careful.

We are looking at the platform and team and wondering “Will these folks make our life simpler or are they just selling and running?”

We think of pilots, partly to get our own team to buy-in, since they are burned out on solutions that rarely work.  Heck, Microsoft leads in that category, as good as they are overall.

But, if we can see you understand us and can solve our problems and you exist to make our lives simpler, then we are going to go as fast as you can handle.  I can think of examples where I have stopped a conversation and said “I’ll give you $500k to get started, let’s now talk how to get moving”.   The funny thing is the new partner still wants to sell and you have to say “I get it, don’t need more, let’s get going”. And you go from there.

The good news for enlightened companies is that most software firms that try to sell into companies are thinking about their amazing story, their amazing platform and their amazing people and why they are going to have an amazing IPO someday.  The client is thinking the opposite – how do you improve our story, will this platform scale and make our lives easier, will your people ensure our people succeed and will this be more cost-effective for us in the long-term.

It’s cognitive dissonance when the two sides don’t get each other.  When they do, the magic of a strong relationship leads to outcomes that make us all smile.

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