More present, less hype: the future of communication management is now

The current saturation of studies and analyses on the future of communication management in general, and the role of the chief communications officer (CCO) in particular, is undoubtedly a consequence of the fundamental upheavals in public policy, business, and society that we have been experiencing for some time now – upheavals perhaps best summarized by terms such as geopolitical confrontation, hybrid globalization, and social polarization. At the same time, AI-based marketing and communication software appears to offer a wide range of potential applications, which will provide our profession with completely new tools. The chief marketing officer at the consumer health company Haleon recently spoke to the Financial Times about how communication dreams are about to come true. “Right person, right time, right message, right context,” as she put it. “This is a marketer’s dream.”

That said, the matter, in all actuality, transcends the mere evolution of a management discipline going forward. Despite appearing somewhat overwrought from time to time, the enthusiastically single-minded search for the future of communication management among technological trends, new (or traditional) roles for CCOs, and innovative business models for the (post-)modern communications world also reflects a great perplexity among decision-makers in business and politics. According to a recent article by FT columnist Ruchir Sharma, “In the developed world, no leader has a rating above 50 percent.” And that at the start of a year in which around half the world’s population will be going to the polls. Indeed, the 2024 Edelman Trust Barometer reveals low levels of trust in the key social institutions of government (47 points on a scale of 100), media (47), NGOs (41), and business (50) in Germany. As the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung reports, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz – who was confronted by writer Julie Zeh at a recent event about the need for politicians to change the way they communicate – has promised to communicate more clearly, saying: “Everyone who asks for it is going to get it.” To top it off, Anastasia Hermann, a professor of human resources management at IU International University of Applied Sciences in Bad Honnef, suspects that “in ten years’ time, there will only be gifted communicators in the boardroom.”

Clearly, we live in a world that needs more successful communication as soon as possible, be it for the acceptance of economic and political decisions or for social consensus, even in times of lower economic growth and dwindling room for redistribution. Communication management can make a difference here, as the discipline has evolved and grown considerably more professional in recent years. A review of the European Communication Monitor, which has been documenting the key challenges in the discipline for 15 years, reveals five focal points, all of which are crucial in the current situation: building trust, strategic orientation, sustainability communication, information management, and new technologies. What we need right now is not more future – in other words, more visions of hyper-personalized communication or communication work involving AI and other technologies that reduce the costs of creativity to zero through large language models, as management consultants currently like to argue – but more present for communication management.

Successful CCOs have never been machinists who use magical instruments to produce predictable communication results on behalf of their organizations – and they never will be. In this regard, I have no other choice but to agree with my American colleague Gary F. Grates, who points out in the latest Arthur Page Society blog post that our most valuable resource as communicators is not our communicative skills, but our communicative point of view. Making your voice heard by presenting a convincing “communicative business model” for your own organization and pursuing it steadfastly is what communication management has always done to strike a balance between businesses or policymakers want and what stakeholders or citizens will accept. Günter Thiele, the grand seigneur of communications consulting in Germany, who has inspired, mentored, or trained many leading representatives of our profession, recently celebrated his 90th birthday. Looking back on his work, he named a few very human success factors that all CCOs can continue to benefit from in the future: “Hard work, modesty, and humility.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

I accept that my given data and my IP address is sent to a server in the USA only for the purpose of spam prevention through the Akismet program.More information on Akismet and GDPR.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.