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Communicating Trustworthiness: Curators of Corporate Character

Culture is becoming a top priority for companies and boardrooms due to its impact on employee retention, reputation and financial performance. As regulators call on organizations to reexamine their corporate culture, the Chief Communications Officer (CCO) has emerged as a champion in this area—taking the profession to a new level.

At the 21st Annual Senior Corporate Communications Conference, hosted by the Consortium for Trustworthy Organizations at Fordham University, leading communicators from major industries gathered to learn how some top-performing companies have created authentic enterprises in an increasingly complex environment. Also, trending online was #tcbCorpComms which provided a snapshot of the event.

“The Chief Communications Officer can influence culture and sometimes you need to tap into it in order to reap the benefits,” said Gary Sheffer, former chairman, Arthur W. Page Society. “As a communicator, if you could understand a company’s culture then you can simplify it and unleash it to the world.”

The need for radical transparency continues to define today’s business landscape. The CCO, however, is now at a pivotal junction where they must help the company move beyond traditional compliance standards and encourage an ongoing conversation about ethics that would stand up to outside scrutiny.

“The role of the senior communicator is rapidly evolving—and we are at a defining point in time,” said Paul Gennaro, Senior Vice President, Chief Communications Officer, Voya Financial. “The head of communications is in a unique position to provide a much-needed holistic perspective that spans across organizational culture—a perspective that CEOs need and want.  We must transcend our functional role and bring the C-suite together to strengthen the culture and make great things happen.”

The CEO-CCO Connection and Culture

Soon after the financial meltdown, banks were dealing with bad narratives from the media and the public, which placed a focus on company culture. This made the job of the chief communications officer tougher than ever before. Culture remains a collective effort—one that should be consistently reinforced by leadership. Studies repeatedly show that companies with strong ethical cultures retain employees who are more engaged and invested in the company’s success.

“Our CEO is seen as the keeper of our company’s culture,” said Oscar Suris, Chief Communications Officer, Wells Fargo, the third largest bank in the U.S. “He keeps employees engaged through a variety of communications, including frequent satellite broadcasts or by calling up a team member everyday to find out what’s going on to ensure that we maintain the habit of doing the right thing.”

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