While marketing and communications are distinct from one another, it’s still easy to think of them as the same, since they’re often used in tandem. Any marketing strategy will require a corresponding communications plan to ensure it’s executed properly.
Let’s say your marketing strategy is to inform existing customers of a new version of a product, with the goal of getting them to upgrade. The relevant communications in this case might include a press release announcing the high-level features of the product, an email marketing campaign and video advertisements on YouTube.
The coordination of the marketing and communications aspects would likely fall to a chief marketing officer (CMO) and chief communications officer (CCO), respectively. These C-suite roles have distinctive responsibilities, and like their respective fields there are important differences despite some significant similarities.
Commercial wizard: A look at a CMO’s responsibilities
As recently as the late 2000s, the responsibilities of a CMO were narrow. A typical CMO might have overseen the development of an advertising initiative but would not have been a key participant in conversations about its costs and financial benefits. In other words, the CMO was the head of a department (marketing) usually seen as a cost center for the organization, rather than an engine of revenue growth. They operated in a departmental silo.
Today’s CMOs still perform many of the core functions of their predecessors, but do so in a different context, one that entails more attention to maximizing often-constrained resources. Speaking to CNBC, one CMO described the evolution of the role as going from being a “brand magician” to becoming a “commercial wizard.” That means frequent collaboration with teams in finance and procurement and scrutinizing each project more closely through the lens of what kind of demonstrable return on investment it can deliver.
On a more granular level, a CMO will perform key tasks such as:
- Conducting market and competitive analyses to identify relevant opportunities and associated challenges
- Collaborating with other executives in the implementation and integration of marketing efforts across the company
- Creating goals, metrics and key performance indicators to motivate marketing teams and contextualize their activities within the organization’s budget
- Crafting a compelling story about the organization/cause as a whole that will underpin all marketing campaigns
- Overseeing online initiatives such as social media advertising and digital brand management to engage the right audiences
The CMO will work with personnel across multiple departments in completing these activities. For example, public relations professionals will play important roles in shaping the perception of the company or cause, building productive relationships with members of the media and social influencers, and producing key collateral such as web copy, blog posts and responses to press inquiries.
CMO salaries have a wide range and are much higher than national median compensation. Glassdoor estimated the average was almost $190,000 in December 2018, while PayScale put it at roughly $170,000 before factoring in bonuses, commissions and profit-sharing arrangements.
What does a CCO do?
The CCO role is more closely tied to PR than the CMO, and it is alternatively known as public relations officer. The core responsibilities of a CCO include:
- Managing the production of external PR deliverables such as press releases and blog posts, as well as documentation and presentations for internal audiences
- Handling crisis management by liaising with internal stakeholders and external organizations and individuals
- Communicating with the CEO and other executives to coordinate PR strategy across departments and channels
- Being the chief advocate and brand evangelist for the organization, from providing quotes to publications to giving talks at industry conferences
- Supervising internal communications and ensuring a positive working environment and consistent corporate culture for PR professionals
As you can see, there’s some overlap with what a CMO does, especially on the collaboration side. Both the CMO and CCO perform normal C-level tasks like discussing projects with other executives and overseeing personnel in their departments, while bearing responsibility for the general direction and shape of their respective marketing and PR initiatives.
The roles are also similar in that they have become broader over time. For example, a survey by Weber Shandwick found that the share of CCOs reporting to the CEO increased by 14 percent from 2012 to 2014. That shift has put CCOs on a comparable trajectory to CMOs, who have become the “commercial wizards” mentioned earlier, with strategic responsibilities extending beyond just traditional brand management and campaign design.
At the high end of their range, CCO salaries are competitive with CMO compensation, although there’s much more variance. According to PayScale, the average CCO will earn $121,000 per year before profit sharing, commissions and bonuses.
How a strategic public relations degree prepares you for a CMO or CCO role
Becoming a CMO or CCO is a natural progression for someone with a long career in marketing or PR. Earning a master’s in strategic public relations (SPR) from the George Washington University (GW) provides the preparation you need to eventually pursue either of these roles.
Graduates of the SPR program at GW are experts in everyday PR practices (such as writing and conducting research) as well as strategic thinking, with nuanced perspectives on media relations, political opinion formation and ethical standards. The SPR track is flexible due to its small set of required courses. In addition, the capstone research project provides an opportunity to work with faculty members and external organizations on an original paper or presentation in a domain of professional interest.
The GW SPR degree is 100 percent online, making it perfect for working professionals pursuing advancement and seeking an education that fits into their schedules. To learn more, visit the main program page today and answer a few questions to receive a free copy of our brochure.
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