Humanizing a Brand’s Corporate Comms; Balance and the CCO


It’s a sad fact that comms is rarely spoken of in purist terms; as an art form. As an all-pervading multi-discipline, touching everything from HR to PR, comms is the lifeblood of organizations. However, it often doesn’t get to stand alone.

This is a waste of potential. Comms should have a unique voice within a business, and it’s time it stops going unheard.

As much as I’ve enjoyed reporting into super talented CMOs during my career, doing so has limited my voice at the table – limited the opportunity to represent the power of communication in all of its glorious disciplines. No longer should comms sit within marketing; it is its own power.

Comms, of course, ties into corporate business objectives and feeds into marketing and business elements such as pipeline and revenue, but CMOs have different priorities. Comms has its own set of awareness metrics such as voice share, warming doors up for sales to open and target, and a tide of storytelling. The value of comms, therefore, isn’t always measurable by moving journeys down the funnel.

The key is to balance broader business objectives with the ultimate intentions of your comms strategy. The sales pipeline that puts pressure on other departments is only one of your KPIs, and prospects are not your only audience; comms have to consider a wider vista, including investors, customers’ customers, and the communities the brand can help.

As a David/Daphne among many Goliaths, at Exasol, we earn awareness rather than buy it and quantify comms success in multiple ways.

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Every CCO will be slightly different, and it’s essential to find the truth that makes you feel comfortable in yourself. But there are some qualities to consider your position on, as they can be fundamental to your success in the long run:

Diligent preparation

Preparation is a given, but as a figurehead for clarity within your organization, you need to be incredibly well-versed in your action plan for every outcome of a big decision or unplanned occurrence. Your intervention can be the difference between “oh shit” and “bring it” for those involved in your business’s major milestone.

To go public in the midst of a pandemic demands that your investors have total confidence in your organization’s brand story and growth plan.

Believe in your story

Of course, you can be as clear as you want – but without a genuinely compelling story that you wholeheartedly believe in, your efforts could all be for nothing.

Storytellers come in all forms, but the best ones all ultimately speak from a place of truth. We’re lucky in the technology industry to have a genuine opportunity to improve customers’ lives, expanding our narrative from discussing the brand as a very good data analytics company to end-user stories from the communities that our tech can impact.

The best storytellers can speak with conviction on the issues that technology is enabling them to tackle. This might be speeding up decision making so they can respond to evolving business conditions in real-time during the pandemic or allowing staff to work within their contracted hours with new automated processes, to broader global issues such as sustainability and ethical issues.

It’s about opening up conversations, not providing gated content. If your stories resonate, have the right tone of voice for your target audiences, and are more compelling than your competitors’, then people will come back for more on their own accord.

Educate the organization

You also need your entire organization to buy into your approach and recognize the role of comms. This means helping them understand, helping them shift their mindset, and sometimes negotiating people’s natural dislike of change.

The messages that your organization believes in should be ingrained and elevated beyond the features of your product or service to the wider benefits of the brand at large. This is how you’ll also get other people to relate and buy-in to your story.

This can be hard to measure and quantify, but ongoing education and training are crucial.

Tackle your ego

As the person responsible for communication, and the one pushing a message that you genuinely believe in, the need to manage your own ego – your expectations, ambitions, and the results of your hard work – is incredibly important.

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Patience is key. It takes time to onboard any message, no matter how clear and valuable. Being able to surround yourself with expert guidance is key, too – your voice is unique and valuable, but you need to be able to ask for advice and leverage the strengths of those around you.

It’s also important to remember that a lot of the most effective messages will not be yours. You need to start the conversation, but then both your internal and external audiences will give their opinions and tell their own stories, which in turn, you can disseminate and leverage. Their conversation will take the wider point that you make forward with them.

Always know what’s next

Discover your power and own it. Remember to leverage everyone around you too and that your work is never done – there is always room for improvement.

Post our IPO, the next phase of our journey will be shouting about the need to humanize data and data-driven decision making, showing the world how data really can change lives; on a small and large scale.

There are stories to be had and truths to be had, and comms can spearhead them.

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Deborah Thomas
Deborah joined Exasol in April 2018 to drive communication and content strategy and has since moved into Chief Communications Officer's position. With over 25 years in technology communications for enterprises and SMBs, Deborah's primary areas of focus are driving awareness, brand, and growth by connecting the dots through consistent and creative storytelling and debate.