Indeed, many leaders in marketing and communications believe that the fundamental nature of their functions is rapidly evolving -- affecting everything from the programs they develop and execute to skills, structure, resource allocation and measurement.

At a Thought Leader Summit I initiated in March of 2011, over 20 CCOs, CMOs and academics gathered at the Oliver Hazard Payne Mansion in Esopus, NY (which houses Marist College’s Raymond A. Rich Institute for Leadership Development). We considered how innovators in communications and marketing are redefining the intersection of brand and corporate culture, and of mass communication and one-to-one engagement. We examined the implications of the era of “big data.” And we shared ideas about how to integrate the efforts of communications and marketing departments.

The summit had three key areas of focus: communication models, organizational structures and competencies.

Communication Models: Many of the entrenched models in marketing, public relations, and communication center on messaging, generating awareness and shaping perception. The new environment requires the additional elements of advocacy, engagement, co-creation and participation. Our conversations centered on a model that was, at the time, emerging from an Arthur W. Page Society research project, examining new approaches to communication and marketing. In March 2012, The Page Society released the results of this project in a white paper, Building Belief: A New Model for Activating Corporate Character and Authentic Advocacy, which fully describes the model and its implications.

Organizational Structures: Given the fundamental changes taking place in the overall communication professions, we investigated new ways of structuring marketing and communication departments. Consideration was also given to how we work with other disciplines such as HR, CSR, OD, IT, etc. If we are hoping to shape cultures and brands, then it is critical to collaborate effectively with these other disciplines.

Competencies: We explored the capabilities and competencies that communication and marketing departments will need in order to help their organizations excel in a new era. We now need more than just good speeches, good advertising copy, and strong media relations. Data analysis, effective approaches to high performance collaboration, and solid business fundamentals were among the skills we discussed.

To address these three topics, we considered existing models, looked for commonalities across new approaches, and proposed a framework for the management of culture and brand that may have cross-industry applicability. A draft version of this model was shared for the first time at this meeting. Shaped by the Page Society research, it includes input from major organizations such as IBM, BMW, and Chevron.

We emerged from this summit with a better understanding of our discipline and with practical ways to adapt our organizations and strategies to a complex, connected and collaborative world. What became clear to us is that the communications professions are perfectly positioned to lead organizations in an era of “social business.”

We are entering a Golden Age where we can do so much more than craft messages. We can truly help leaders identify and shape “corporate character,” and we can help organizations build relationships that move beyond engagement to authentic advocacy.

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