Aberdeen Strategies

May 31, 2013

No Time-Outs

By David Webster, Aberdeen Strategies

In today’s world, not moving forward with your communications initiatives while waiting for a chief communications officer to be recruited can put your company at a serious disadvantage.   Yet, that’s what many (ok, most) companies do.  They wait.   The CEO waits.  The staff waits.  The company waits.

A corporate communications function doesn’t have to call a time-out while waiting for the new CCO.  Here are some ideas to keep the wheels turning.

Develop an interim communication plan.   This can be done quickly, helps set priorities, provides a roadmap for the existing team, and allows everyone to know who is going to do what, thus preventing missteps.   Also, identify any risks that may be looming so you can address them before they become a crisis.  Review the plan after 30 days and make adjustments to keep it relevant.

Start a review.   Your new CCO is going to want to dive into the details, so start assembling the information early.   Staff bios, job descriptions, budget detail, and other kinds of information will be needed.   I also think it is important to identify known gaps and recommendations for each functional area.   Utilize outside help if you need it. 

Engage your agency.   Agency leaders tell me that “going dark” is a common practice for companies undergoing a leader transition.   Use the resources of your agency to help you continue to move initiatives forward and to assist where gaps are identified.  

Be patient with your executive recruiter.   Even though most of the specialized communications recruiters at the top firms have extensive data bases of potential candidates, it can take time to find the right person.   If you manage the interim period well, you’ll give your recruiter the time needed to find a great fit for your company. 

Appoint an interim CCO.   Whether an existing staff member or someone from outside, this can be a smart move for companies who want to protect their brands and continue moving forward.   While our firm specializes in placing experienced CCOs on an interim basis, you might also look within your ranks for someone to manage the function, or reach out to a former communications executive to step in temporarily.  

The period of transition to new communications leadership doesn’t have to be wasted if you take steps to move with purpose, set goals, and act quickly.

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