United Airlines, Inc.’s new reporting structure for communications reminds me once again of the fallacy of not having the function report directly into the chief executive officer.
Human beings communicate. They write, they talk, they think. They don’t instinctively do risk management or count their fingers and or bake bread. First and foremost people speak. Communications in any language is the basic human function. So why would you not have the communications function report directly into the chief executive office?
You would have concluded that during their recent debacles United should have learned something very basic that the ability to communicate clearly, succinctly, simply and sincerely is the main function of a chief executive officer. Lawyers and HR people worry about other things. They worry about risk, they worry about laws, they worry about staffing, they worry about behavior, and keeping people engaged, safe and happy.
So once again here are some primary reasons why you want your communications people and your chief communications officer reporting in directly to the chief executive officer.
Words matter. What you say, how you say it, to whom you say it, for whom you say it and the impact of what you said are the most important functions of any chief executive officer in today’s information ubiquitous society.
Your word is what matters most. Particularly for a consumer facing organization like United. You want and need people behind you that are going to assure that the messages you put together well resonates and informs your constituents of what you’re thinking, what you’re doing and what it means to them.
The shortest distance between two points is a straight line. It is not a circle, it is not a triangle, it is not a pentagon, it is a straight line. The CEO needs a communications strategist at their beck and call and at a moment’s notice all the time, anywhere and in real time. As we know so clearly from all the United debacles you don’t need or want a filter. You want advice straight up, savvy, direct and fast.
The CEO is the CCO. Marketing, legal, HR, operations, all have their own functions, missions and outcomes. The chief communications officer is trained, schooled and experienced as counselor, communicator, collaborator, conscious and consigliere. The CCO is best equipped to help the CEO with messaging and critical thinking at the speed of right. That is the job of the CCO.
The shortest distance between two ears is a straight line.
Gerard (Gerry) F. Corbett is Founder, Chair and CEO of Redphlag LLC , a strategic branding and communications services and counseling firm and instructor in the Entrepreneurship Program at UC Berkeley, Extension. Gerry has more than four decades of technology, PR and marketing experience in several Fortune 200 firms. He also is past chair and CEO of the Public Relations Society of America and an avid photographer, career coach and blogger.