Focus on User-centered Design; It’s Not About the Title or The Org Chart

In the wake of some high-profile departures of communications leaders, PR Week asks whether communications and marketing should be separate or combined.  That question misses the point.  What consumer and employees want is an authentic conversation on their terms.
 
The communications executives quoted in the article rightly point out that the role for the head of communications has changed with so many new expectations and channels.
 
For too long, most companies shoehorned communications under marketing, where the advertising folks tried to squeeze the marketing slogan of the day into every sentence of communications. That strategy was only marginally successful with journalists and it’s really not successful now that consumers and employees have so many places to find information.
 
Both communications and marketing need to stop looking at the org chart and at what features, functions, events, and products they can pitch. The smart communications executives know it’s vital to start looking at the world through their customers’ and employees’ eyes.
 
Our clients are often surprised by the amount of time we schedule for understanding the audience, but it’s that user-centered discovery that is so important to the success of most of our projects. We want to know what questions your customers are asking and what motivates them. We get insight from knowing what consumers are hearing, saying, and thinking.
 
That discovery is just as significant for internal communications as it is for external audiences. Like customers, employees want to genuinely engage.  User-centered design is essential for companies to get heard.
 
Maybe the title should be Chief Consumer Officer or Chief Employee Listener and they should both be focused on the user.