Managing the Digital Age: Comms execs struggle to define strategies

by | Sep 21, 2017 | Public Relations

The rapid evolution of digital and data is causing unprecedented and revolutionary changes on communications and marketing. While CCOs and CMOs agree digital and data are critical to organizational success, they are grappling with how best to describe and deploy both technologies, according to new research from Peppercomm, in association with the Institute for Public Relations (IPR).

Nearly two dozen executives were interviewed for a new study, Managing the Digital Age: A Dialogue with CCOs and CMOs, in order to understand their specific challenges and opportunities around digital and data, and how they are trying to stay ahead in a hyperkinetic business and digital world.

Amid a spike in demand from stakeholders to accommodate their digital expectations, CCOs and CMOs have embedded digital in almost all facets of their communications and marketing strategies and have made it a formidable part of their annual marketing spend. However, they admit they haven’t mastered digital, and how they define digital varies greatly across organizations.

“It’s clear that no one has mastered the data and digital realm, and we are all being affected by the rapid speed of change,” said Dr. Tina McCorkindale, president and CEO of the Institute for Public Relations, in a news release. “As an industry, we need to develop best practices and standards to help the profession be stronger, smarter, and better equipped for action.”

Managing the Digital Age: Comms execs struggle to define strategies

Some CCOs/CMOs said they use digital to drive media relations, while others view it as the foundation of their brand house

Digital channels and platforms constituting the walls, doors and windows of this “house.” Who owns digital within an organization differs from company to company, but many have seen their digital role evolve over time. For example, one communications executive said digital operates as a shared service within her organization, utilized by both communications and marketing departments to create stronger integration across the board. In addition, the report also highlighted there is no universal agreement as to whether the CCO or CMO should “own” customer experience.

“While everyone wants it, needs it and understands its critical role, the CCO/CMO landscape is a veritable Tower of Babel when it comes to defining exactly what digital is,” said Steve Cody, co- founder and CEO of Peppercomm, in the release. “That’s problematic since, like measurement, our marketing and communications leaders really should be singing off the same song sheet. Helping nail down exactly what digital is and how best to deploy it is an ideal research undertaking for the IPR to tackle.”

The digital age has created a vast amount of data available to communicators and marketers to aggregate and analyze

Nevertheless, CCOs and CMOs continue to face challenges when it comes to interpreting and leveraging data effectively. Although more than 90 percent of organizations maintain databases to host information on customers or prospects (eMarketer), Harvard Business School professor John Deighton found that data-driven marketing spend is around 20 percent of the $1.3 trillion total annual marketing spend in the U.S. (DMNews).

And while there is an abundance of data available to the CCOs and CMOs involved in the study, those interviewed overwhelmingly stated the need to combine quantitative data with consumer insight and first-hand experience to develop a balanced and successful strategy. One executive from a fresh food products company suggested CMOs should immerse themselves in technology, product and data because to fully understand how the consumer interacts in the moment, you have to actually use it yourself.

Communications and marketing leaders who can combine behavioral science with solid data will have the ability to make a significant difference within their company.

Read the full report here.

This is the second study released by Peppercomm and IPR. The first one, A Time of Change: How CCOs and CMOs are Handling a New Presidential Administration, was released in April 2017.

Richard Carufel
Richard Carufel is editor of Bulldog Reporter and the Daily ’Dog, one of the web’s leading sources of PR and marketing communications news and opinions. He has been reporting on the PR and communications industry for over 17 years, and has interviewed hundreds of journalists and PR industry leaders. Reach him at richard.carufel@bulldogreporter.com; @BulldogReporter