“Well now see, C.C. Rider
Well, now see, see what you have done.”

– Ma Rainey

James Gregory, CEO, CoreBrand

James Gregory, CEO, CoreBrand

In a July 21, 2008 article in Advertising Age, branding guru James Gregory predicts that Chief Marketing Officers (CMOs) will begin to inherit CEO slots with growing regularity. Gregory, CEO of CoreBrand, believes this trend will be fueled by the flawed accounting practice that ignored the impact of brands on corporate balance sheets and “held marketing communications in its grip of second-tier rank within the corporate hierarchy.”

There is no question that CMOs can and should sit in the big chairs. The short- and long-term value of managing the corporate brand as a strategic financial asset is, without question, a BGO. My quarrel is with Gregory limiting his crystal ball to Chief Marketing Officers. Chief Communications Officers (CCOs), who are schooled in managing a company’s overall reputation and internal/external relationships, deserve a mention here, as well.

In fact, one could argue today’s typical CCO is as or more qualified to lead the organization than virtually any other member of the C-suite. Check out this definition: “The CCO of a company is the corporate officer primarily responsible for managing the communications risks and opportunities of a business, both internally and externally. This executive is typically responsible for communications to a wide range of stakeholders, including but not limited to employees, shareholders, media, business influentials, the press, the community and the public.”

CCOs help their organizations manage the most daunting challenge of all: change. And they do that by learning to act as “boundary spanners,” professionals who can see the organization – the whole of the organization – as others do from inside and outside the company’s walls. They serve as early warning specialists who look past the trees and the forests to see the storm clouds on the horizon that could threaten a company’s ability to succeed. They counsel senior executives on how to create and strengthen relationships on both individual and enterprise-wide levels. By helping manage the corporate reputation (read: the sum of perceptions about the organization), CCOs help establish the favorable conditions in which powerful brands can thrive and confidence in the company grows.

Sounds like a pretty good training ground for future CEOs to me.

In “Leveraging the Corporate Brand,” Gregory accurately predicted the rise of the Chief Communications Officer position, which he writes now “inevitably gave way to the title Chief Marketing Officer.” Setting aside the question of that “inevitability” for the moment, here’s hoping Mr. Gregory returns to his roots and sees the CCO as worthy of not just riding on the corporate bus but driving it, too.