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Why PR Should Report to the CEO, Not the CMO

businesses Nov 30, 2020

Oftentimes, companies have public relations roles reporting into the CMO. Why? Perhaps the hire is junior so it doesn’t make sense to report to the CEO, or maybe the company doesn’t understand the key differences between PR and Marketing so assumes it falls within the same business unit. The reasons for reporting into a CMO can vary, but the truth is that both the company and PR professional are best set up for success when there is a direct line of communication to the CEO, whether that is by structure or access. 

As a seasoned veteran of the PR industry, I've worked with PR professionals that have either reported into the CEO or CMO. From this experience, I can tell you precisely what works really well and what doesn’t. 

That said, wherever your PR function sits within your business structure, it’s imperative that they have, at a minimum, a dotted line and access to the top and here’s why: 

    • PR is not Marketing and has different measurable goals. PR is not Marketing. PR is responsible for reputation, not lead gen. While the two roles have alignment, they have very different measurable objectives. Marketing aligns with sales gen, while PR aligns with lead gen. They are measured differently. Without a CMO that understands the value and metrics associated with PR, it becomes an issue if that person is unable to show its value to leadership. 
    • Potential message dilution. The CEO is the voice, PR is the microphone. Would you stand 20 feet away from a microphone if you want to be heard clearly and concisely? Or would you get as close to it as possible? It is the PR leader that has influence over the public reputation of the business, who understands the pulse of the company, industry, and market. By not giving your PR team access to the CEO, you run the risk of a) sending the wrong message that your CEO might not align with, or b) having it diluted by competing business objectives. The CEO is the voice of the company. If you don't know what he/she is thinking, how can you accurately communicate a message about the company? Also, business leaders that understand PR, value it more.
    • The best stories come from having a seat at the table. Your PR professional’s goal is to create and mine stories to share with external audiences (media, investors, etc). They serve as a strategic advisor to the business, and shouldn't be dismissed as somebody who “just writes press releases.” And, who knows the business better than the CEO? Couple that knowledge with a PR professional that knows what the media likes and wants to hear, and it’s a powerhouse duo. Lastly, in today’s modern world where CEOs can be a brand unto themselves, it’s another reason PR should work in tandem.  

There are always factors that shape reporting and access structure, and sometimes the CMO and VP of Communications work well in tandem. Ultimately, what’s most important is that PR has access to the CEO so both parties are set up for success.  

Now that you know where PR can sit in an organization, is it time to hire that person? Click here and get started finding the right PR person for your business.

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