Friends in the C-Suite

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When I read the editor's column in the Jan. 17 edition of BtoB, reflecting on CMOs getting their much-deserved seat at the C-suite table, I couldn't help but feel pride for the broader marketing industry. Like many CMOs, the in-house heads of public relations, along with chief communications officers (CCOs), have fought similar battles to earn our coveted spot within the C-suite. Thankfully, many of us are already there—or well on our way. But now that the voices and counsel of marketing and public relations/communications stand right alongside those of senior management, one has to wonder how well these two sides will work together to ensure a cohesive communications strategy is maintained. After all, we have similar goals of helping brands reach, engage and influence customers, but our roles differ significantly and our voices aren't always the same. In other words, how do CMOs and CCOs remain buddies in the hypercompetitive world of the executive suite? It's no easy task. Like CMOs, public relations executives and CCOs are also assigned roles as key brand advocates. But unlike marketing, public relations' focus drifts toward a holistic view of how a company's mission aligns with that of all its stakeholders, keeping in mind the public's best interest. CMOs and CCOs must resolve to restrain from back-biting, particularly in matters of budget and internal stature within the C-suite. The surest way for each side to lose credibility—and potentially that hard-earned C-suite spot—among senior-level peers, is to lose focus on the bigger picture. What's important is achieving organizational goals, not winning our own petty squabbles. The editor's column noted that “the ability of CMOs to help others in the C-Suite ... succeed” will help CMOs retain their spot among a CEO's most trusted counsel. Taking that one step further, I propose that it's our collective ability to pull together the best ideas from a variety of company leaders, and decipher how those innovations will affect customers and the broader public, that will allow for long-term C-suite success for modern CMOs and CCOs. CMOs and CCOs now have the explicit authority from many companies to be the leading voices for their brands. It's up to us to use the technology, insight and experience at our disposal to ensure we continually deliver upon those expectations. If we achieve that, there's no reason we can't be friends forever. Rosanna M. Fiske is chairwoman and CEO of the Public Relations Society of America. She can be reached at
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